Sunday, September 9, 2012

Reader Question- Night Vision

C sent me a note asking about night vision. "I am not ready to spend the coin on PVS-14s like you did but was wondering if you have any thoughts on gen 1 stuff.  My goals are modest-- (1) get familiar with the stuff, (2) check out activity in the back yard up to 50 meters or so, (3) move through terrain without visible light.  The ability to use with a weapon would be a plus.  Yukon has some positively rated gen 1 weapon sights for $400 ( but I don't love flagging everything I want to look at.  I also have an AIMPOINT PRO which is NVG compatible; in that case would a helmet-rig make more sense?"

TOR here: Sorry Man but to be honest I do not know. There is a picture comparison of the generations of night vision put out by a big manufacturer that you can see by going here and scrolling down about halfway. Somebody made a video comparing Gen 1 and Gen 3 that you can see here. I cannot personally vouch for these but they seem legit to me.

As to Gen 1 stuff. Broadly speaking you definitely get what you pay for. This is a great "buy once, cry once" candidate. That being said some folks are not able (or willing) to spend the equivalent of an OK used car on a NOD. Both the spend more and the 'but I can't' rabbit holes can be followed if you want. Personally I decided to suck it up and make the purchase of a NOD. I use them at work and know what they can do. The massive advantage they bring is worth the cost to me. What was right for me might not be right for others. I have used some older stuff on the .mil side, can't remember what exactly, it was a long time ago, but it was complete junk. I wish I could spend a night testing a dozen common models all the way from Gen 1-3 but the opportunity has not presented itself. It is almost certainly better than nothing but how much better and if it is worth the money I cannot say.

 You can probably get some or most of what you want done with the kind of model you mentioned, which I thought about getting myself but decided against it for reasons I cannot remember, though they will be degraded in relation to a more expensive set. I am trying my best to help but really don't know. [If anybody with experience using modern Gen 3 stuff also has experience with commercial off the shelf Gen 1 stuff like the model mentioned and is interested in writing about it please leave a comment or contact me at]

Now we can go to something I know more about. Unless you are using night vision as a dedicated sniper setup for varmit hunting the right answer is to mount the night vision on your head, probably using some sort of helmet. The reason for this is that you are going to do a whole bunch of stuff with night vision that requires your eyes but doesn't need a gun pointed at it. Stuff from walking around to turning back to make sure a buddy is behind you or whatever.

When an optic is said to be "NVG compatible" what (I believe) they mean you will be able to use it in line with a NOD (by mounting the NOD behind the optic on the rifle). In plain English it means you can see the reticle/ dot through a NOD. If the NOD is on one eye and you try to aim the rifle with the other you would see with the night vision through one eye and with the other a lit optic on the ambient light surface. I have never done this but I suspect it would work badly.  The way to use a weapon in conjunction with a NOD is to have it on your face and aim the weapon via an IR laser. To do this you need a legit IR laser that is able to be zeroed and can hold said zero. A DBAL which is basically a civilian legal equivalent to a PEQ-15 costs about a grand. Yeah this sucks, I am knee deep in said suck right now. If anybody knows of a legitimately viable alternative I am interested. (Rednecking the cheapest IR laser you can find onto a gun won't cut it. It won't be able to get or hold a zero and thus will not be able to hit #*$* with it, sorry.)

Anyway I hope this helps our friend C and maybe a few other folks.  As always input is appreciated.


AM said...

Right, "night vision compatible" red dots and halo sights are best used if you actually mount the night vision device behind the optic in question. With a PVS-14 this is simple, as there is a picatinny mount available just for this. So if you forward mount your Aimpoint or Eotech (or other compatible optic) and leave space for your 14 going from "day to night" is relatively easy.

Some snipers down in texas tested this system out and were getting consistent hits from 40 to 400 meters in hours of darkness, using an extended rail system on a Rem700, but would work with any AR with a freefloat (or rigid, like the Knights Armament M4 rails) forend.

Farmer Frank had a couple good articles posted about the night vision he used for hog control, IIRC some of them were genI and genIII.

Chris said...

To skip the laser, could you not forward mount an NVG compatible optic like an AIMPOINT and then use your dominant (shooting) eye for both the helmet mounted NVD and the optic?

Sure, the cheekweld might not be perfect, but the whole point of the red dots on a light-recoiling carbine like an AR is that you can shoot without a perfect cheek weld.

Anonymous said...

What Ryan said.

I used everything in the military from ginormous PVS-2s mounted on crew-served weapons, to (a lot) of time using PVS-5 (dual tube) goggles, to Gen 3 PVS-7s (the cyclops goggles), then PVS-14s and thermal viewers.
And tried a (Bushnell) Gen 1 civvie viewer.
The latter was total unredeemable crap, and I beat a hasty return and got my hard-earned coin back.

PVS-7s or a -14 head-mounted, tied to a NOD-compatible sight, and ideally a DBAL-style laser gives you the power of life and death ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE better than those unequipped on a coalmine black night.

So-called "Gen 1" gear should be derated to "Gen 0" and labelled "sucker bait".

If you only have $400 to spend, get a visible light and laser, and more ammo for range time, including real-world low light practice, or else stay home after dark, because you'll be prey for those with the real gear or better skills. Sorry if that stings, but it's gospel truth.

Expect $400 NOD to perform as well as you would expect a $90 AR to do.

Best regards,

Ryan said...

AM, That is what I meant to say but did a poor job at.

Chris, Do you mean to have the NOD on your face and try to line it up with the Optic to shoot? I do not think that would work.

Aesop, Thanks for the info.

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