After some (none) deliberation, I found myself in possession of an Insight MTM.
Being a mini thermal monocular with essentially zero mounting options save for a bipod/tripod stud at the bottom, there were basically 4 usage options:
- Slinging it around my neck/stowing in my pocket and using it as-intended, as a hand-held monocular. This option wasn’t terribly attractive for me because the element of speed is completely gone and this is rather cumbersome with other gear on my person.
- Center-mounting it on top of the host weapon. While the MTM does have a super-imposed reticle in the viewfinder, it’s non-adjustable and thus, you cannot dial it in for windage or elevation. In order to use the MTM as a weapon-mounted optic, you would have to essentially mount it up, then, barring any zero shift from mounting/dismounting, attempt to zero the gun – mentally. Put simply, you would shoot your gun, then determine where the point of impact is, and try to remember how much to offset the reticle in order to get your rounds on target. Effective for maybe all of 50 – 100 feet or so, but pretty dodgy beyond that.
- Elcan mount with adapter plate to allow for windage/elevation adjustment. At a price of $428 USD (at time of writing) and a weight of 300g vs MTM’s 326g, this effectively doubles the weight of the assembly, thus negating any weight/cost savings to be had in the first place.
- Off-set mounting it on the host weapon to use as a spotting device. This would solve the issue in #1 above and allows for the weapon to be used as it normally would be.
As a proof of concept, and taking a cue from the Eotech STS (slap? to side) mounts, I managed to source a complete repro Eotech G33 and EXPS3-0 kit for a good deal locally. Bottom line – I paid $20 for the knockoff Eotech STS mount and – it’s complete garbage compared to the real one. In the “deployed” position, the magnifier wasn’t even level with the Picatinny rail, and in the side configuration the entire assembly wobbled no matter how much the “adjustable” detent was tightened. Nevertheless, I modified the riser plate to accommodate for the MTM’s bipod stud and got it all mounted up.
This is how I ran it for some quick skirmishes.
Overall the image quality, range and detection are quite excellent.
Some ergonomic notes, in no particular order:
- Working this setup while wearing Sentinels is… cumbersome at best. The process goes something like this: Navigate with NVG, decide to employ thermal, flip NVG up, turn thermal on (it’s off because the backsplash is extremely bright), wait for thermal to start up, calibrate the thermal, scan and observe with thermal, ID and range targets, turn thermal off, flip NVG down, re-acquire targets with NVG, engage. At least 15 seconds has elapsed during this process. The use of monocular or pivotable binocular NVGs is almost an absolute requirement. (BNVD, PVS-31, PVS15, etc)
- The monocular is not very secure using a single screw to hold it to the STS mount. Thankfully the threads are coarse and you can really crank the mounting bolt down
- The STS mount does not place the monocular very close to your eye (effective “eye relief” is about 1″) and when tilting the weapon to observe the image, the weapon stock must rest over your shoulder. The unit should be moved back more so the motion of going from a cheekweld to observing the thermal image is much more fluid.
- The repro STS mount must be replaced with a longer-term mounting solution. Recommend the Wilcox flip-mount base with Eotech shoe or a custom-made shoe to place the optic closer to the operator’s eye. Couple with an offset T1 and this would solve a myriad of ergonomics problems and allow the MTM to be used as a dedicated thermal scope. (however, see #2 above)
- Considerable eyestrain moving from observing the MTM to going back to standard NV or even natural night vision. An ND filter and/or shuttered eyecup assembly is a must. However, the fact that the objective lens is not PVS-14 compatible represents some challenge.
- Button placement when in the flip-to-side is awkward at best, and is further hampered by some of the buttons needing to be held to achieve certain functions (calibration, turning on/off). Buttons being extremely spongy/non-tactile does not help.
Overall, the Insight MTM has its place as a spotting device and can be a tremendously powerful recce tool especially used in conjunction with the IR laser to designate targets. But in terms of employing for use on a weapons platform, the cumbersome ergonomics and lack of adjustable zero seriously hamper its effectiveness.