Thermal imaging is an incredibly powerful technology, whether it’s being used for hog hunting, tracking fugitives from a helicopter, or locating enemy troops on a battlefield. It illuminates warm-blooded creatures instantly, even if they’re visually camouflaged and motionless. At SHOT Show 2023 this week, Holosun unveiled an exciting new hybrid optic called the Holosun DMS that integrates a thermal (or digital night vision) overlay onto a standard red dot. Although it’s not ready for retail release yet, there are a handful of prototypes undergoing testing, and we got our hands on both variants at the SHOT Show Range Day.
Holosun DMS Red Dot Hybrid Optic
The new Holosun DMS appears to be based on the popular Holosun AEMS, a compact, enclosed-emitter red dot with flip-down lens covers. However, in this case the front cover is opaque instead of clear. When it’s flipped down, the optic works just like a normal red dot with adjustable brightness and Holosun’s selectable dot or circle-dot reticles.
When the front lens cover is flipped up, you can press a button to activate the DMS’s secondary optical system, which will be projected onto the black window behind the red dot reticle. Since the red dot is independent of the background image, the optic maintains the same zero at all times, day or night.
We checked out two Holosun DMS sub-models, each with a different secondary overlay:
- DMS-TH Pro – Thermal optic with various image modes
- DMS-NV Pro – Digital night vision camera (think along the same lines as the Sionyx Aurora Pro) with infrared illuminator
Above: Editor Tom Marshall tests the Holosun DMS-NV Pro. It can be identified by the top-mounted digital night vision camera, which is slightly smaller than the DMS-TH Pro’s thermal camera.
The red dot and secondary thermal or NV optic are independent of one another, so during the day you can leave the secondary optic disabled to conserve battery life. Speaking of batteries, the unit is powered by two 18350 rechargeable lithium batteries, which can be charged directly inside the DMS optic via a built-in USB port on the right side of the housing.
That USB port also offers the ability to stream footage to a secondary screen in real-time, so you could connect your DMS to a tablet and use it to observe a static position without getting behind the weapon.
Above: The Holosun DMS-TH Pro (left, with opaque cover flipped down) and DMS-NV Pro (right, with cover flipped up). Note the small protrusion next to the NV camera lens — that’s an infrared illuminator for use in environments with no ambient light, such as dark buildings without windows. The illuminator can be toggled on and off independently.
Initial performance impressions were good, with a clear image and fast refresh rate. The DMS-NV image appeared somewhat dim during our morning trip to the range, but this is understandable due to the bright daylight conditions; it should be much easier to see in the dark conditions it was designed for. The DMS-TH showed body heat prominently in the daylight, with a bright red dot on top.
Holosun hasn’t finalized the designs and features of these optics, but we’re told the DMS-NV should be priced under $1,000. That’s impressive considering an AEMS red dot is nearly half that without the extra optical system on top. As for the thermal DMS-TH, there will be a standard model available for approximately $1,600 and a premium, higher-resolution model available for about $2,300. We’ll keep you posted once we have more details about availability, and we’re already planning a thorough review as soon as final production samples are available from Holosun.