I’m straining a bit not to call the SIG ECHO1 thermal reflex sight “revolutionary,” but there is that conversation.
PRICE, STYLE, SIZE, WEIGHT AND USE
Why should it be called revolutionary? The main reason is price. I’ve seen it available without accessories for under $1,150! That, alone, will enable this infrared heat-reading piece of former science fiction to be placed on the Picatinny rails of many consumers’ firearms for the first time. Advances in technology have resulted in drastic price reductions of thermal devices in 2017, and this portends the future of the category. Manufacturers are also becoming adept at squeezing more technology out of existing computer-driven platforms. It’s going to be a fun ride.
Secondarily, the styling of the ECHO1 is also somewhat revolutionary. SIG is steering its latest style of electro-optics to the stealth fighter/Zumwalt-class destroyer angular shape, and it is showcasing these designs in its excellent line of reddot sights and Bravo 4 prism sights, as well.
A third reason for the “revolutionary” label is the ECHO1’s size, weight and style of use. It’s smaller than a box of 20-gauge shells and weighs a fraction as much, at 14.7 ounces.
The image is called “direct view,” which is the same way you view your smartphone screen: not through an eyepiece. There are no specific eye relief requirements, except to mount it where you can see it the best. I found that my preferred view is about 12 inches away from my eye, putting the rearmost part of the viewing hood just forward of the upper receiver on a black gun.
Incidentally, this is also a very close distance to where the ocular lens normally is when I’m using a scoped handgun. So, yes, it will also work on a handgun, including, if I may coin an acronym,
ARPs (AR pistols), although it was specifically designed with the 1.5-inch optical center required by the MSR (modern sporting rifle) carbine platform. The ECHO1 is robustly tested for integrity by actual shooting, as well as simulation on a recoil machine.
With most existing traditional thermal riflescopes, the eye relief is from about 1 to 2.5 inches, and you look through a collapsible, accordion-like rubber eyepiece that serves well to prevent the glow of the screen from illuminating your face like a lamp. With the ECHO1, users can choose a red or blue color screen and adjust to low brightness. With the screen a foot away, it’s very difficult to notice the operator because emissive light to his face is minimal. This is why Coast Guard users reportedly prefer a blue color screen. I generally use the multicolored rainbow view.
SIG calls the direct view screen a “reflex” type, because you can keep two eyes open while aiming. In practice, this does not work as easily as with a red-dot sight or a magnified Trijicon ACOG, with its Binden Aiming Concept (BAC). The screen size on the ECHO1 is 1.4 x 1.2 inches.
Performance is fair compared to most traditional IR riflescopes costing twice as much. Resolution on the LCD screen is listed at 220 x 176 pixels. It has the new, smaller size pixel pitch of 12 microns.
The ECHO1 can pick up heat signatures at up to 1,000 yards, and SIG states the targeting range is greater than 300 yards. In simple terms, what does that mean to the pig hunter for whom it was somewhat designed for?
I’ve harvested swine with handguns, arrows, flintlocks and lots of carbines, some with night vision, so I feel qualified to comment. Let me tell you: With the ECHO1 on 1x or its maximum of 2x, I’m stretching my comfort level at a bit more than 150 yards on a pig. Farther than that is possible, but you’d better have a good rest and a static porker. As already mentioned, 2x is the maximum magnification available. This is nothing like looking through an optical sight, and there is a learning curve. Remember, you’re looking at heat signatures only. It easily picks up humans at hundreds of yards.
The ECHO1 is controlled by a joystick. Gamers out there will appreciate the familiarity of it, and it is glove friendly. Press center to show the menu, and then move the joystick to the choices that best fit your application. It’s simple to use and hard to screw up. In normal use, toggle right to take a burst or single picture; down to choose one of eight black-andwhite or color palettes; left for brightness; and up to switch from 1x to 2x.
Using the ECHO1 allows you to share with others the same view you have, because the direct view screen can be seen by anyone in close proximity, whether on a gun or in a hand. It’s handy as a handheld unit but a bit hard to direct the scope to a target when it’s not mounted on a gun, where you have a cheekweld.
Accessories with the ECHO1 kit include a rear iron sight and an adapter for the SIG ROMEO1 mini-red-dot sight. Both sighting systems are useful in finding your target more quickly when using the ECHO1 as a monocular.
SIG has done an excellent job with its first attempt at a thermal riflescope. It will be exciting to see the future of the ECHO infrared category.
- LCD SCREEN RESOLUTION: 220 x 176 pixels
- SCREEN SIZE: 1.4 x 1.2 inches
- PIXEL PITCH: 12 microns
- ADJUSTMENT RANGE: Digital 100 MOA windage and elevation
- FIELD OF VIEW: 3.7 x 4.7 degrees
- FRAME RATE: 30 Hz
- BATTERY TYPE: Two CR123A batteries
- RUN TIME: Eight hours
- WEIGHT (WITH BATTERIES): 14.7 ounces
- COLOR/CONTRAST SETTINGS: Eight
- RETICLES: Five, plus custom downloadable from SIG website; four colors; first focal plane
- GUARANTEE: Infinite guarantee; five years on electronics
- MSRP: $2,400 (kit); $1,560 (ECHO1B)
- MSRP, ROMEO1: $407.99
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.