Bill Mooney tells us all about his first time out in the field with the Sightmark Photon RT Night Vision Scope.
USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- My wife, Laura Mooney who writes for AmmoLand News, and I moved to South Carolina recently. On my bucket list was to hunt feral hogs regularly. Of course, I needed to build a great hog hunting rig from rifle components to the finished product with night optics.
And don't you know it in walk the fine folks at Sightmark out of Mansfield, Texas.
My good friend Kevin Reese at Sightmark suggested I give their Photon RT a test in the field and write about my experience with the optic. I do like testing and writing about affordable products and the Sightmark Photon RT Night Vision Scope is a great value in the sub $800 [way less $$ online] price point.
My style of product review is a little different than most. You can find a lot of YouTube videos on all the specs of this optic. There are a lot of other write-ups online with voluminous details of all the specs to satisfy your needs if you like that stuff. You can also get every spec in the world about the Photon on the Sightmark website. I seem to connect better with my readers simply telling the story about my experience using the product. You can think of my review as the “Average Joe’s Gym” kind of write-up.
I am probably committing the writers’ cardinal sin here by telling you at the beginning of the article I am thoroughly impressed with the optic at this price point.
Sightmark Photon RT Night Vision Scope – First Impression
Right out of the Sightmark Photon box, my first impression was this is a well-built unit and is feature-rich. Most of the features are very functional and will be used by most hunters including:
- Wifi remote view (using the free Pulsar Stream Vision App)- I highly suggest downloading the free app.
- One-shot zero function
- Video and sound recording with multiple options
- High-resolution sensors
- 2x digital zoom (6x to 12x)
- Many reticle options with 4 colors – I opted for traditional red on my hunt.
- Intuitive user interface
Battery & Mounting
This unit is fairly long and weighs about 32 ounces. In comparison, it’s longer than most scopes, but not much heavier than a lot of other optics. The objective lens is 50mm. Overall, the length and weight did not affect the usability at all.
I purchased a pair of 30 mm scope rings as this scope did not fit on my existing 30mm tactical one-piece mount. The rings on my mount were wider than the space on the optic tube. I also purchased an affordable riser to be sure I didn’t have to fight the height. I probably didn’t need the riser but used it just to be sure. Once mounted, the Photon RT was in the perfect position.
Like so many digital products these days, this unit can eat up the budget batteries I tend to buy. I highly suggest using lithium AA batteries (the unit needs 4 to run) or a high-quality rechargeable AA system. The lithium batteries I bought for this hunt were far better than standard batteries. I barely made a dent in them for the few hours I was in the field. Sightmark does provide an additional backup battery pack which is a very nice feature.
The zeroing process is very simple if you don’t let your testosterone get in the way. Like a lot of guys, I tried to figure it out on my own and finally resorted to reading the manual. Don’t be like Bill. Read the instructions.
If you use a boresighting tool to get your shot on paper and actually hit the target, the next step is easy. Access the menu of the scope, push a button, move the Y axis towards the hole you just punched through the paper at your desired distance while keeping the rifle in the original target position, push the button again, move the X axis towards the hole and repeat until the center of the reticle moves over the hole. You have now matched the direction of the barrel and reticle. Fire another shot and it should be right on target. Take note of the X and Y axis numbers on the bottom right of the screen. It’s pretty important if you ever need to adjust the reticle in the field.
Another nice feature of the Photon RT is the onboard memory. The reticle should stay put if you remove the battery pack. For some reason, if you lose zero, you can put the reticle back to zero (the X and Y axis coordinates I mentioned). I wrote down my X and Y axis numbers in my cell phone notes for easy reference while in the field.
A simple and a smart reticle idea by Sightmark:
Using the Sightmark Photon RT Functions
The more I played with the unit at home, the more I became familiar with accessing the menus, making changes for my personal use, and the overall functions of the scope. I was ready to use the scope in the field for the first time under a bit of pressure.
Be like Bill’s wife. Read the manual and get to know your scope very well. I’d even do your experimenting before you mount the optic to your rifle.
This scope does have a daylight use function. Essentially you close the objective lens cap and there is a small pin-hole that allows less light through to the optic. You will be disappointed if you are looking for the crisp image of a traditional scope while using the Photon RT during the day. This is a digital image projected to your eye from a small screen but would get the job done in a pinch if you needed your night-hunting rifle during the day.
Now that I feel confident the rifle will deliver the goods at the intended target, the rifle is ready for my safety check. My good friend and OCD gunsmith Dallas Henry from Praetorian, Inc helped me inspect the rifle, conducted all the appropriate safety checks, and did a lot of fine-tuning details to my new rig like polishing ramps, etc. Now I was ready to hunt feral hogs!
Nothing worse than going on a hunt and your confidence in your rifle and/or optic isn’t through the roof. Not this hunt. My confidence was very high!
At 9:45 pm on Sunday night of Labor Day weekend I met Gene Wisnewski from Goat Productions at a small farm in rural upstate South Carolina. Gene is a local hog and coyote hunting guide who has access to some great land to hunt. The landowners rely on him to clean up their farms of these unwanted feral and destructive pests. As we are getting closer to deer season, Gene is particularly busy. About an hour or so before our arranged meeting, Gene received a call from a landowner who had seen feral hogs near some deer feeders on his land.
The magic of cell cameras and technology is amazing. The landowner saw these hogs in real time. Change in plans. We were headed to this farm instead of the original destination.
We arrived at our destination in Gene’s pickup truck right about 10 pm. I had to quickly load my rifle, put the new batteries in the unit, check the zero, and hustle to the area where the landowner had seen the hogs on camera. I performed a fast check of the reticle coordinates before heading out on the stalk. Spot on!
We walked for about 20 minutes or so to our intended spot. Gene spotted a sole hog in the area we were targeting. The rest was simple. Lifted my new hog-slaying rifle on top of the tripod, placed the Photon RT crosshairs between the ear and the shoulder of the feral hog, and pulled the Gissele SSA trigger. One 75-yard shot and the nice 165-pound wild boar lay where it had stood.
I forgot to hit the record button on the Photon RT. Damn!
As we were walking back to the truck so we could drive and harvest the boar, I was thinking about the awesome experience at the same time kicking myself for not recording the shot.
Halfway on the hike back to the truck in the darkness, heavy humidity, and an eery lightning storm, Gene stopped and said, “Hold on, something just moved up there.” I don’t know how he saw movement in the pitch dark, but he picked up his handheld thermal unit and said, “Yep, something is up there ahead a couple hundred yards. Hopefully, it’s a hog and not a deer.” We maneuvered to the left to get a better look and sure enough, it was a lone feral hog grazing in the field. This time, it was a 200-pound big brown boar.
Yes, I remembered to hit the record button once I placed the rifle on the tripod. The hog rotated and stopped broadside, and another single-shot downed boar. This time I captured the kill shot digitally. You can see my money shot on the video below. It was easy to grab the video from the Photon RT and put it on YouTube, social media, or do with it as I please.
Two perfect shots on this memorable evening. One recorded on the Sightmark Photon RT night vision scope for bragging rights and the other, a wonderful hunting memory. Great hunting guide in Gene Wisnewski, a great rifle, and a great night vision optic.
So yes, if you are looking for an affordable night vision optic rated up to 200 yards with recording capability and playback, I would seriously consider the Sightmark Photon RT 6-12×50 riflescope. Be sure to download the Sightmark Stream Vision mobile app. It’s a great add-on for the optic and a nice user experience improvement.
About Bill Mooney
Bill Mooney is an outdoor and shooting industry sales and marketing expert, an outdoor writer, and hunting enthusiast. His experience in sport optics and firearms manufacturing world provides a fresh approach to his inspired writing, information, and instruction. Bill also helps many companies with public relations initiatives, strategic marketing, and helping companies grow their sales through creative and traditional sales channels.
“I want my writing to inspire consumers to break out of their comfort zone, think differently about buying products, and improve their outdoor and shooting experiences. I also write to encourage outdoor industry businesses to focus on the consumer usability of their existing and new products!” ~ Bill Mooney