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iRay’s RH25 RICO MICRO Thermal Sight [Review]

PREDATOR VISION IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND WON’T COME CHEAP

Choosing your first thermal optic can be a confusing set of hard choices. You know you want thermal capabilities. 

You think you might want a stand-alone sight to gleefully eradicate hogs at 100 yards, but then it occurs to you that you might get more use out of it if it were small enough to helmet-mount so you can walk around and stalk. 

But then again, maybe it’s best to get a clip-on that goes in front of your day scope so you can get more distance use and don’t have to re-zero every time you swap scopes. But then you might not be able to really use it as a handheld. Deep frustration sets in as analysis-paralysis whispers wait-and-see justifications to your wallet.

With the release of the RH25 RICO MICRO thermal optic, iRayUSA, a Texas-based provider, has taken a pretty good swing at bat in trying to make everyone happy. The RICO (“Rugged Infrared Compact Optic”) MICRO is iRay’s attempt to provide a compact, jack-of-all-trades thermal optic.

It’s a sampler-platter of pretty much any role you envision a thermal filling, but it doesn’t leave you compromised badly on any particular front.

Running through its basic specs, the MICRO is a 640×512 resolution optic with a 12 μm pixel-size sensor and a manual-focus f/1.0 objective lens. It sports an AMOLED 1024×768 display and a 50Hz refresh rate. That refresh rate means it updates the visual information that’s displayed quickly enough to not lag annoyingly like cheaper 30Hz optics often do, but is just below the 60Hz of pricier ones. 

Refresh rate can arguably be a more important factor than the resolution; who wants a 4k TV if it lags and pixelates during quick movements? And shouting out the refresh rate isn’t just a polite way to cover up for bad resolution — just the opposite. Experienced users who sampled the little optic were very impressed at the image quality. “It has a really clear picture compared to other brands I’ve used,” said a vision manufacturer that was at the range testing it with us. The manual says it has a 1,375-yard detection range, which is pretty darn far out for a little unit like this.

“Detection” is, of course, a very different thing than being able to positively identify what it is you’re detecting. We found with the native 1x power lens, you can resolve animals out to about 200 yards, which means you can determine the difference between a similar-sized pig, calf, or coyote well enough to comfortably smash or pass. 

iRay Micro RH25
Here the iRay RH25 is in clip-on mode in front of a Trijicon ACOG, mounted on a Hodge Defense 12.5-inch carbine with a Dead Air Nomad-TI silencer.

There’s also 2x and 4x digital zoom. As a bonus to all the uses, this scope is somewhat unique in providing in-optic review abilities in addition to app-based recording and broadcast of full-resolution video and photos. You can record up to 1,600 images and 40 hours of video onto 64GB of internal storage, and Wi-Fi allows in-the-field ability to blow up your Instagram or YouTube as quickly as you blow up varmints. All these high-middling-to-high specs are crammed into a handheld scope about the size and weight of a PVS-14.

This makes for a form factor easily swapped between the uses most would want to explore with thermal. Conversely, a larger stand-alone optic might be great to mount on an AR’s top rail, and you can make an effective-but-clumsy handheld out of it, but good luck getting that on your helmet. We took the MICRO for a quick spin to cover all these suggested uses. Here are our brief impressions of how it worked out in various roles.

HANDHELD

Whether sitting in a deer blind or doing mounted observation, it’s certainly the stupid-simplest way to use the scope. Click the “on” button, wait less than 10 seconds for it to boot up (or instant-on if it’s on “Standby”), and hold the thing up to your eyeball. 

Just like a PVS-14, there’s a manual diopter adjustment ring on the eyepiece to focus your eye to the screen, and an objective lens focus ring out front to focus the optic to your target. 

Easy and familiar, no need to dive into menus or buttons for digital focus — just grab and twist. You can zoom digitally through; a short press on the power button scrolls you through 1x, 2x, or 4x magnification. When panning or shifting from object to object, the 50Hz refresh made for a lag-free experience. 

A thin status bar on the display shows the current mode, digital zoom level, battery status, scene/imaging mode (white hot, black hot, red hot, color), and data like a clock, compass, and cant angle. 

The whole unit is small enough to fit in most people’s hands. There’s a small lanyard loop, so your clumsy friend doesn’t drop it when you loan it to him. But if he does, it has IP67 protection for whatever meter-deep puddle your buddy fumbles into.

HELMET MOUNTED

The MICRO can be mounted to a helmet using the included helmet adapter rail or with their optional PICTAIL system.

The optic should just come with the PICTAIL setup because that’s what you want if you’re swapping the system from role to role. PICTAIL is a hybrid dovetail and Picatinny rail mount that’s bolted to the optic. 

The design has one end that’s dovetail-shaped to lock into common helmet and bridge mounts. The other end is 1913 rail, allowing it to be mounted into … well … a lot of things without having to unbolt and swap out an adapter. 

iRay Micro RH25 Thermal
The compact RH25 is small enough to even be dual “bridge” mounted — if your tax bracket allows for it.

iRayUSA partnered with American Defense Manufacturing to make this mashup so you don’t have to change anything out when going from helmet to weapon. The mount interface uses M4x6mm screws instead of the ¼-20 thread found on most all cameras, tripods, and the PVS14.

It would have been nice to have a standard thread pitch native to the unit, but the PICTAIL solves that by offering a socket with the ¼-20-inch standard if you want to put it on a tripod or other camera mounts.

So, utilizing the same hardware we already had for mounting our venerable PVS-14 green night vision, we clipped the MICRO onto a Team Wendy bump helmet using the PICTAIL, a Wilcox G24 mount, and a Wilcox bridge mount. 

Keep in mind that for helmet use, you’ll need an adapter beyond what comes in the box, same as any PVS-14 would, such as a Knight’s/Red Queen JAMR dovetail adapter or the Wilcox setup if you’re not price-sensitive. Cheap bridges and 3D-printed solutions exist if you are. At the least, you’d need something like the Knight’s K-Clip dovetail shoe and the included MUM-type rail to fit it to whatever mount arm you use. 

Whichever adapter-sandwich you wind up with, this setup is light enough to walk around without your helmet drooping. On that note, you can remove the unit’s 18650 battery and optionally power the MICRO with an external battery pack through its data connector port. 

This lets you shed a little weight off the front by moving the power supply to the back of a helmet to act as a counterweight.

When the MICRO is put into helmet mode, its semi-rounded viewing screen changes to a rectangular “box” display, the crosshair goes away, and digital zoom is disabled. 

The screen size is reduced to 70 percent to be in unity (1x), so you don’t have that weird feeling of walking with magnification. A wider field of view would be more optimal for a 100-percent helmet-mounted optic. 

While one of iRay’s other well-reviewed optics, the MH25 (aka the “ChinaSkeet”), is a 9-ounce, purpose-built, helmet-mounted monocular, and probably more optimized for this role, the MICRO do-it-all scope is only 3.4 ounces heavier and an inch bigger. 

It works in this role with only a bit of compromise. The 4.52 inches and 12.7 ounces hanging off the front of your lid is almost identical to the PVS-14 (4.5 inches and 12.4 ounces). The unit automatically flips to “helmet mode” when the buttons are oriented upside down. Neat touch.

STAND-ALONE WEAPON MOUNTED

iRay’s optional MQD mount grabs the PICTAIL on one side and your firearm’s top rail on the other. Boom, done. The whole system takes up a similar-sized chunk of rail space as a full-sized ACOG, which is pretty small for a stand-alone thermal optic. If you don’t want to pop for the optional PICTAIL/MQD setup, the “OEM Rifle Mount” is included in the box — bolt it to the scope and mount the setup to your rail. 

The OEM mount is spring-loaded and features a built-in shock-reduction system to soften recoil. This makes the system rated for shock up to 1,000 g/s2 (calibers such as 300 Win/7mm Mag). 

Again, popping for the PICTAIL and MQD setup is worth it just for the convenience, as well as the over 4.5 inches of rear offset for proper eye relief it provides. But the included option is good enough and gets you up and shooting with what’s in the box.

iRay Micro RH25 Thermal
The PICTAIL mount flips so the optic gets closer to the eye in stand-alone mode.

Back to the optic itself, the “buttonology” is simple. All the controls are easy to find in a straight line down the top of the scope. Diving into the menus is a bit more complex; there’s a lot of options. Thankfully, the manual was well-written for this scope. 

Naturally, we didn’t read it, but somehow wound up figuring the basics out. Functions like switching between reticle styles, display options, changing between meters and yards, and housekeeping tasks are easily done one-handed, without leaving your cheek weld. 

The MICRO has seven different reticle types, from a simple small dot, to crosshairs, to a larger ring/crosshair/dot. Each reticle can display in four color choices (white, red, green, or black) to contrast with whatever scene type you choose. Stand-alone mode defaults to a 1.3x display, and the reticle is visible at all times.

Many hunters prefer to mount an external battery pack to their stock, rail, or wherever the shooter sees fit. As opposed to optimizing weight distribution when head mounting, on a weapon this is done to get longer usage times with a larger battery. 

Alternatively, the two 70mm Nitecore batteries that come with the MICRO have their own ports, so recharging the 18650 in the field is possible.

CLIP-ON MOUNTED

We should take a detour here to discuss why you’d run clip-on mode versus stand-alone mode. Mainly, you’d want a clip-on so you can shoot at longer distances while using the same rifle and dayscope you’ve already mounted and zeroed. 

Otherwise, it’s easier to just dedicate a separate rifle for standalone mode and use the thermal’s digital zoom and reticle. But if you don’t have multiple rifles (or don’t want to swap between your dayscope and your thermal, potentially losing zero each time), then clip-on mode can be a solution. 

iRay Micro RH25 Thermal
Low-power variable optics like this Vortex magnify the thermal image without changing your day sight zero.

Note the big difference between a stand-alone and clip-on mode: When you’re using it in stand-alone mode, you just tighten the thermal to the rail, turn it on, and zero the digital reticle. But to use it in clip-on mode, in tandem with your (already zeroed) day optic, you need to collimate the two optics so all those lenses, crosshairs, and screens line up. In clip-on mode, you’re basically looking at a little TV that’s in front of your existing dayscope, magnifying the image on screen, and utilizing the dayscope’s reticle to aim. 

So you need to ensure that this scope-sandwich gives a correct aiming picture and not a wonky offset. On your first use, it may be necessary to adjust the X/Y position of the screen to collimate the MICRO to your dayscope’s reticle. If your POA and POI differ in clip-on mode, adjust the screen’s position to line everything up, and you’re on target.

To get the MICRO on the gun and in clip-on mode, flip the MQD + PICTAIL mount around 180 degrees from how it’s mounted as a stand-alone. Plunk the MICRO and MQD mount in front of your dayscope, and you’re in business. We used a 4-power Trijicon ACOG-RCO on one carbine, as well as a Vortex 1-6x scope on another. 6x power is the maximum recommended magnification. 

Any higher than that and it gets a little pixelated. In clip-on configuration, the required rail space is just four rail slots in front of the dayscope. Even the shortest carbine we had at the range (an 8.7-inch PWS) could easily fit this thermal ahead of a normal scope without running out of rail, while still having a rear offset of just 1.5 inches.

CONNECTIVITY

A free smartphone app (Android and IOS) is available to slurp videos and images out of the scope’s onboard storage. We tried the iOS version; it worked well after a little learning curve. 

Once we figured it out, we were able to capture thermal video onto the optic, download the images to a nearby iPhone via Wi-Fi, and be on our way to social media posts.

One of the coolest, unique features we wound up appreciating was the ability to livestream to an iPad or smartphone in real-time. The optic creates its own Wi-Fi network — connect your phone to the optic’s Wi-Fi, open the app, and your phone becomes a surprisingly lag-free viewfinder. 

iRay Micro RH25 Thermal
A Bluetooth app for smartphones lets you save stills, video, or broadcast your hunt in real-time.

One frigid night out looking for coyotes, the MICRO was set up outside on a tripod, while we viewed it from a phone inside the warm truck. You can just hit “record” on the phone to take stills or video anytime something interesting happens. 

Apparently, there’s also some other neat streaming and file management things that we didn’t read the manual deeply enough to discover. The app is noticeably faster than some other manufacturers’ takes on this sort of thing — image downloads from optic to phone took only seconds. 

We should note that some reviewers have given the app a little stink-eye for having advertising and general kludginess. If it suits your preferences, great. If not, the unit comes boxed with a multiuse data cable that has USB, BNC, and 7-pin connectors so you can Neanderthal-mode it direct to your computer like an external USB drive without any app middleman needed.

In the end, after running the MICRO through its various roles, it seems to be a smart little scope that can work in various modes without much compromise. It’s probably at its best in its clip-on and handheld roles; it does really well for a tiny stand-alone weapon sight and can be helmet-mounted. In all modes, bottom line: The picture quality simply hits above its class.

Some of this is due to the screen type itself. iRay’s choice to build it using a higher-priced AMOLED display rather than OLED gives it faster refresh rates, high artificial contrast ratios, and better screen viewing angles. It’s also thinner and lighter, consuming less battery power compared to LED-LCD technology. 

On the downside, AMOLED doesn’t do as well when viewed under bright sunlight. But that doesn’t seem much of a concern in a night scope, now does it?

Cost wise, the MICRO’s street price has yet to be established, but manufacturer’s suggested retail (aka “sucker price”) for the 640×512 version is $5,999. There’s also a “lite” version (RL25) without clip-on ability and a lower 384×288 resolution available for around half the price. 

All of the iRayUSA thermals have a five-year, transferable warranty with a promise of speedy one-week turnaround on any needed repairs. 

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