A budget-priced thermal monocular from one of the top thermal optics manufacturers in the industry may be your next best investment in home and property security

by Rob Reaser

While I don’t have a dog in the surprisingly never-ending fight between the Ukrainian defense forces and the Russian military, I have spent a good bit of time lately watching YT videos of the conflict from the ground and air level. My curiosity began with a simple, “What’s going on over there?” What I’ve seen from the numerous videos taken from GoPros mounted on soldiers’ helmets and from eye-in-the-sky drone footage is that conventional warfare seems to have taken a radical turn from the days of yore.

In short, the very pedestrian technology that is now found in sporting goods stores throughout the country and is available through online retailers has changed the game for battlefield and urban combat.

Why is it that the mighty Russian army, with its legions of tanks, mobile launchers, and troop carriers, have been stymied on all fronts for now over two years? There are many variables, to be sure, but from the frontline videos I’ve watched, I must conclude that the Ukrainian forces’ effective and ingenious use of simple hobbyist RC drones and thermal observation capabilities have put significant weight on the scale. The Russians appear helpless against the waves of Ukrainian drones, fitted with RPG heads and grenades of various types, destroying their tanks and transports. It is truly amazing.

And it is not just heavy equipment that this technology is capable of neutralizing. Drones and thermal observation are used with great lethality to eliminate enemy troops attempting to hide in city rubble, rural barns, and tree-line trenches.

With thermal, avoiding detection is quite difficult. Add in grenade-laden drones and escape is not always possible…even if you are hunkered down in a trench.

How does all this relate to the new InfiRay Outdoors budget-oriented thermal monocular?

Hunters immediately understand, since thermal is the ultimate tool for not only hunting predators at night, but also for game detection and tracking/recovery during the day and night.

Tested: Infiray Affo R+ Ap09 Thermal Monocular

Thermal imaging, you see, is a 24-hour asset. It works as effectively during the day as it does at night. That’s because the thermal optic system utilizes extremely sensitive thermal sensors and sophisticated image processing technology — even AI programming, as is the case with the InfiRay AFFO AP09 system tested here — to pick up the slightest variations in heat signatures to construct imaging that you can observe in real time, record as video, or capture as stills.

The caveat is that good thermal gear can be expensive. Really expensive. Sticking with InfiRay products, for example, the company’s top-end Bolt thermal riflescope comes at a cool $6,999 MSRP. The Rico HD 2X 75mm weapon sight boasts an incredible 1280×1024 sensor resolution, and it will set you back an eye-popping $17,999 (MSRP).

Like anything else in the optic world — binoculars, riflescopes, spotting scopes, et cetera — cost is relative to performance. You want better features? You’re going to pay for it.

Understanding that not everyone can justify spending several thousand dollars on a thermal optic unit, iRayUSA, the distributor of InfiRay products in America, is now offering an entry-level thermal monocular that delivers the essential capabilities you would expect in a quality thermal device but at a price that is more easily justified for hunting applications and home security. We find the latter function most attractive.

Tested: Infiray Affo R+ Ap09 Thermal Monocular
The InfiRay AFFO-series AP09 thermal monocular.

It doesn’t matter whether you live way out in farm country — where the distance between houses can be measured in miles — or in the suburbs, the ability to discreetly locate threats and intruders without first giving away your position is priceless. That is where a thermal monocular shines.

Consider this scenario. You live in the country and it’s 1:30 in the morning. You hear a car drive slowly past the house and stop. Peering out the windows, you see nothing but know that the car is still out there. You hastily dress, grab your shotgun or AR, a flashlight, and head for the door to investigate.

The question becomes, “What are you walking into?”

You won’t know until you leave the confines of your home and announce your presence to whomever is lurking about, either by the sound of your footsteps or the flashing of your light.

You may have a gun, but you don’t necessarily have the advantage because you have no idea where the threat may be or how many threats you will encounter.

A handheld thermal unit, though, can help prevent you from walking blindly into a bad confrontation. With thermal, it is possible to see whatever is bumping around, giving you the info you need to determine a safe response — retreat and summon help or confront the problem. And with a thermal unit that can record video and take still pictures, you can document the event and the participants should you need evidence for legal prosecution or a defense.

The InfiRay AFFO AP09 is a handheld thermal monocular that can do all that, and with a $599 price tag, it is a reasonable cost that can pay dividends not only for home and property security purposes, but you can also use it year-round for nighttime wildlife observation and hunting pursuits.

I spent a few months testing the AP09 and found it to offer good performance for the price point.

Tested: Infiray Affo R+ Ap09 Thermal Monocular

While I often struggle with menu-oriented electronic systems, the AP09 proved downright simple to operate. Four buttons are located along the top of the housing. At front is the power button, which turns the unit on and off. Once on, a quick press will send the unit into sleep mode, allowing you to preserve the battery while providing instant reactivation when you need it.

Additionally, there are two directional and one menu button. Quick-pressing the up button lets you scroll between the five color palettes: white hot, black hot, red hot, color, and highlight. A quick press of the down button snaps a still image while a long press begins and ends the video recording. All recorded data lodges in the unit’s internal 8 GB storage.

The menu button serves two functions. Quick-pressing allows you to change between 1X, 2X, and 4X magnification. Long-pressing the button accesses the system’s menu. Here, you can customize several features, including Wi-Fi connectivity, picture-in-picture (PIP), brightness, calibration, date and time, language, and factory reset. The menu options aren’t as deep or detailed as some of InfiRay’s more expensive units, but the AP09 does offer the most common function adjustments you’d certainly want.

Sensor resolution of the AP09 is 256×192, which is on the lower end of the InfiRay monocular spectrum. Still, it is more than capable of presenting imaging you can work with.

Tested: Infiray Affo R+ Ap09 Thermal Monocular

Here is a night shot of my neighbor’s barn complex, which is about 200 yards away. As you can tell, there is plenty of detail to discern the structure and to pick out any man or beast that may be roaming about.

Tested: Infiray Affo R+ Ap09 Thermal Monocular

Around my property, the AP09’s resolution is more than sufficient to locate and identify any intruders.

Tested: Infiray Affo R+ Ap09 Thermal Monocular

This photo was taken during the high afternoon sun of a doe and newborn fawn in a hayfield at 2X magnification. The grass is about three feet tall. I could see nothing in the field with my eyes, so I began looking through the AP09 and noticed a couple of “somethings” bounding through the grass. My first thought was that they were fox cubs, which we always have around the house in May and early June. Eventually, this doe stood up and one of the fawns (the white figure on the left) ran to it and began nursing.

This was the perfect example of how thermal can be effectively used even under bright sunlight to find animals or humans that would otherwise be hidden from the naked eye.

Tested: Infiray Affo R+ Ap09 Thermal Monocular

I really like the PIP feature of the AP09. When activated, PIP presents a magnified image at the top of the screen of whatever is in the center of the primary AMOLED display. With this, you can get a better view of a subject without having to bother with the zoom function.

Tested: Infiray Affo R+ Ap09 Thermal Monocular

At 6.36 inches in length and 2.36 inches at its greatest diameter, the AP09 is handy enough for stowing in a jacket pocket or a bag pouch for ready accessibility. The top cover’s rubberized texture offers a secure grip, which is great when wearing gloves or if your hands are wet. The polymer housing is IP67 rated, making the unit resistant to dust and limited water immersion.

Tested: Infiray Affo R+ Ap09 Thermal Monocular

As we have mentioned here repeatedly, good personal and home protection begins with a cool head and practiced firearms training. But there are other factors to security. Controlling the element of surprise and making use of your home field advantage are key among them. A good thermal unit won’t, itself, protect you; however, it can certainly give you the upper hand when it comes time to put the home front on intruder alert.

If you are looking for a solid thermal device for home security or hunting but aren’t ready to swing the big bucks, the AFFO AP09 from InfiRay is definitely one to consider.

InfiRay AFFO AP09 Thermal Monocular Specifications

Sensor

  • Resolution: 256×192
  • Pixel Size: 12 μm
  • Frame Rate: 25 Hz
  • Sensor Sensitivity: <40 mK
  • Image Processing: Reality+

Optics

  • Objective Lens: 9mm f/0.9
  • Magnification: 1.3x
  • Digital Zoom: 4x, stepped
  • Field of View: 19.4° x 12.2°
  • Detection Range: 460 yds.
  • Display Type: AMOLED
  • Display Resolution: 640×400
  • Color Palettes: white hot, black hot, red hot, color, highlight
  • Picture-in-Picture: yes
  • Rangefinder: stadiametric
  • Eye relief: 20mm
  • Diopter Range: -7 to +2

Electronics

  • Onboard Recording: video and images
  • Onboard Storage: 8 GB
  • Wireless Connectivity: video and image via App
  • Data/Power Connector: USB-C
  • Power Supply: USB-C external, built-in battery pack (9+ hours)
  • Startup Time: <10 seconds, instant from standby

Physical

  • Size: 6.3 x 2.36 x 2.36 in.
  • Weight: 11.8 oz.

Environmental/Warranty

  • Housing Material: polymer
  • Ingress Protection: IP67
  • Operation Temperature: -4° F ~ 122°
  • Warranty: 5 years

Shoot On Editor-in-Chief Rob Reaser is a lifelong outdoorsman, former magazine editor, columnist, and contributing editor to numerous national publications in the automotive and outdoor segments. He has also authored and co-authored several DIY gun building books. His shooting and hunting passions cover everything from traditional archery and big-game bowhunting to the latest in handguns, rifles, and reloading. Rob has a troublesome habit of pulling guns and things apart to see how they work; occasionally, he manages to get them back together...

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