Are you having a tough time seeing your thermal target?

Sometime despite your best efforts you will experience some setbacks trying to shoot your thermal target. 

A hopeful, productive training session can becomes a frustrating ordeal.

I want to offer some possible solutions to squelch your nerves and step up your shots.  

A number of factors are important to grasp when working with a thermal target, but once you get the basics down, your shooting sessions will be productive and fun.

In the end, mastering your scope and taking responsible shots is the objective. 

Here are some tips to help you shoot like a pro.  

Let’s go! 

Learn Your Scopes Functions

When it comes to brands Trijicon, ATN, Pulsar, FLIR, are just a few of many excellent manufacturers to choose from.

They all make top-notch scopes for your firearms.   

Cost varies greatly and so does performance. But remember, as the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” 

All scopes are NOT the same!

Do your homework to determine which scope checks all the boxes for all your training, hunting, and or job needs. It is all about finding the perfect match for your weapon and goals.  

Familiarize yourself with the buttons, settings, and functions to ensure you make the most of its capabilities. Know the ins and outs.

Upright Powered Thermal kit, B29 NRA approved

#1 Troubleshooting Tip


If your target is not visible, the #1 Troubleshooting tip is to change the gain and control setting to manual. 

Once this is done and you still have trouble, check your Scope’s manual for any other potential errors. 

Once you ruled out all scope errors, then assess the following areas: (See below for details)

  • Target Size  
  • Target Distant
  • Target Position  
  • Environment  
  • Debris on the target  
  • Shooting Location: Outside or Inside  

After you have gone through all these troubleshooting steps and you are still struggling to spot the target, then it might be a good idea to think about upgrading your thermal scope.

Target Size

The scope quality and the target size work closely together. If the scope has a lower resolution, spotting the contrast on a small target will be difficult.

On the flip side, the higher-resolution scope makes it much easier to see a smaller target. 

But before rushing out to buy a new scope or larger target try a couple of options.

  • Check distance recommendations for your thermal target. Adjust as needed.
  • Move yourself closer to the target.

Target/Shooter Position

Both your position in relation to the target and the target’s position to its surroundings are super important. So take a moment to double-check these factors. 

Either one could be the culprit if you have trouble seeing the target contrast.


  • Reposition yourself to the target. Standing directly in front of your target at a 90º angle is always best. Sometimes even moving 5-10º will cause the target to disappear.  Unless a target emphasizes a “no lean” feature like IR.Tools Upright Thermal Targets, your 90º position will be critical.
  • Lean the target back 15º so it looks up towards the sky. An IR.Tools Upright “no lean” target works at any angle. 

Target Distance

Every thermal target has a recommended ideal visible distance.

In general, your zeroing targets are 25 – 50m distances. Larger life-size targets like IR.Tools E-type, Boars, and Coyotes are visible at 100m.

If you are still having trouble at the recommended distance try:

  • Moving the target closer to your position.

IR.Tools Thermal target recommended distances:

  • 25m for 2x2cm paster, Universal Zeroing target
  • 50m for 50m paster, Thermal Zeroiing target
  • 100m+ for Thermal Zeroing target, Large passive and powered E-type, Boar, Coyote

Shooting Environment

Yes the environment is tricky when shooting a thermal target.

Cloud cover, buildings, trees, temperature, and the sun’s position in relation to the target all could play a role in your ability to spot the target. 

Sometimes it may feel like a game of hide and seek. 

Thermal targets reflect the cold temperature of the sky against its warm background to create a contrast. This contrast is what you view to shoot. If the ground temperature and the air temperature are similar, the target contrast could be minimal or none at all. 

Your target is not broken.  

If you are having issues, check the weather. Your contrast is enhanced on a day when the ground temps are warmer compared to the sky.

Other suggestions to overcome environmental conditions:

  • Reposition yourself to the target. Stand directly at 90º
  • Reposition the target. Adjust so buildings and trees are not directly in front of the target.
  • Lean target back 15º, this is critical for a target without a “no lean” feature.
  • Add a portable chemical heater to the target.
  • Sun position should be on the sides or in front of the target.

Lastly, if you are still having difficulty, a powered thermal target is less hindered by these environmental conditions and will work every time!

Remove Debris/Scratches are Ok

Sometimes in transport, your target may gather some debris or get scratched. No worries!

Debris and water could hinder your viewing but will not damage the target.

While scratches on your target look bad they will not prevent the target from producing a good aiming point.  Just like the scratches on your car are annoying they won’t stop the engine from running.


  1. Wipe with a soft cloth
  2. A damp cloth is Ok too!

Outdoor or Indoor Shooting

Go outside.

Most passive thermal targets are built for outdoor shooting. 

So without a heating element, if you are attempting to shoot indoors, chances are you will not be able to view the target. I have heard of instances when the target works inside but this is rare. 

If going outside is not an option then your best bet is to purchase a powered thermal target.

These targets work great indoors or outdoors. 

Few Tweaks Gets It Done

Keep in mind, that just because you have trouble spotting your thermal target doesn’t mean you have a faulty target.

A little tweaking with your scope, adjusting the distance, considering the environment, and or changing the target size can often do the trick.

Patience will win the day!

If you exhaust every other option in this support document without success, you may want to consider a larger target or higher resolution scope.

Buddies after a great day on the range!

Share Your Success Stories

Good luck with your shots.

We would love to hear your success stories…Send pictures and videos!

And when you are ready to upgrade your zeroing and training, try an IR.Tools “no lean” Upright Thermal Target!

If at any time you are still having trouble spotting the target, call me!

  • 🤙 Tom @ 443.292.8885 – Office
  • ☎️ HELPLINE : 443.584.5400
  • 📧 Email:
  • 💬 Catch me on a CHAT at https://IR.Tools
 The Author

Tom Boyer profile picture

Since 2006, Tom has been the driving force behind IR.Tools, dedicated to delivering top-notch infrared solutions to the military, law enforcement, and sportsmen communities.

What began with a single infrared patch has blossomed into a comprehensive store featuring hundreds of IFF patches, vehicle IFF, an extensive suite of thermal training targets, and tools for drone pilots.

Beyond his innovative products, Tom is passionate about educating users on infrared technology and showcasing how advancements in IR can enhance their operations.

Tom holds an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland and an MBA from Regents University.

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