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This thread is for discussion of night vision and the related aiming systems. There are a number of posts scattered around LF, but as far as I can see there is not a single dedicated topic.

In the aftermath of Hogpocolypse, it struck me that a consolidated topic would be useful.

As I find links to individual posts I will add them in this first post. 

So, any comments, questions or observations about buying, using, or setting up NVG devices and the associated IR aiming and illumination systems would be welcome here.

Original Post

Ok.  I’ll play.

Question, and I think I know the answer. If one is using a thermal device, does IR illumination do anything to enhance what you can see?  Seems like based on thermal being heat and IR being part of the light spectrum, the answer should be, no it doesn’t help. Am I correct in this thought process?

Thanks for doing this Longeye, as this past Saturday at Hogpocalypse was my first exposure to using NV equipment. 

And as  a side note, it was a pleasure to finally meet up and shake hands, brother. 

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I'm interested in this specifically from a work standpoint.  We run ANVIS systems on our flight helmets, but if someone was looking for a "budget" self defense/patrol rifle set up with NVG's and aiming equipment, where would you turn?  I had huge issues with nausea and headaches running a PVS-14 monocular so binos/dual tube would have to be it for non-weapon mounted NVGs.

Very limited time using nods - less than 50 hours best guess. I've seen discussion on and experienced that single and dual tubes are best for different applications (yay METTTC!). Both have plusses and minuses but a solid mounting system (helmet suspension) is absolutely critical and makes the difference between tolerable vs intolerable. I've yet to run any that are actually comfortable. Right now if i could swing them i'd grab 14s as a monocular seems to be more applicable to a wider range of lighting situations - as in i can use them in full dark canopy or in patchy low/no light urban areas at night where there's almost always some light source somewhere. Hope that makes sense, I'm far from an expert and am sure someone with much more knowledge will come along and educate us all.

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My use of NV has been entirely in observation, and generally under some fucking abysmal conditions.


Garbage like this is fairly common around here, and NV certainly struggles with it.


This is a fairly dated picture, but it shows roughly how my helmet and rifle(s) are set up. The NVD is an auto-gated TNV/PVS-14 ITT Gen3 Pinnacle. The MFAL is a DBAL-A3. Considering my use as an observation tool first and foremost, it made sense to have an illuminator on my helmet. The illuminator on the DBAL is obviously a no-go for observation in the same way that a WML isn't a general purpose flashlight.

Shown is a V1, which has since been moved onto a Unity Tactical KNUCKL mount to get more out of the rail space and the light itself. The white is a little anemic, but being able to aim the light via the KNUCKL mount makes the most of what it has available in both modes. Having the illuminator off even a little is a pretty big deal when you're only working with a 40deg FOV.

I've found that the laser illuminator on the DBAL punches through "soup" better than LED illuminators like the V1. That said, the V1 acts more like a flashlight and doesn't scramble my brain as much as the DBAL. The best I can describe it, the DBAL throws out a fairly uniform cone of illumination rather than having a hot spot and side spill. If I haven't used NV in a while I'll get a headache and some motion sickness for all the usual reasons. I find that the laser illuminator makes the depth perception and related issues significantly worse - but I'm more than willing to admit that it might be a user problem.

With the KNUCKL system, I could also just swap the illumination package out with a 6P body and run either a vastly better illuminator (Torch Pro) or a vastly better white light (P60 Drop-in). If I had to do it over again, I'd likely use an M600V. It comes with a higher snag risk, but puts the illuminator farther forward, gives a bit more oomph, and gives more options on one body (E2C adapter, see 6P body).

From memory, the V1 starts to suck in the 50yds-75yds range while the DBAL was more around 75yds-100yds - under good conditions. For context, my usage has been in and around an urban environment. There is usually PLENTY of ambient light, especially on an overcast night. I believe this has a significant impact on the value and function of illuminators for me.

I find that illuminators can sometimes do more harm than good when strictly observing. If I fire up an illuminator, the autogate basically restricts visibility to the beam of the illuminator. Anything outside the beam which may have been visible under ambient conditions just disappears. There are also issues with the illuminator bouncing back off near by foliage (including grass in front of me) causing a much more severe response from the autogate.

If I fire up a flashlight in a doorway looking down a long hall, and accidentally get part of the beam on the door frame, I'm still able to see down the hallway just fine. With IR illuminators and autogating, I'm not going to see shit down the hall because the NVD has adjusted for the illuminated door frame. I'd guess you can fix this by fucking with the gain settings, but I don't know.

If I walk out my front door and fire up the V1, I'm only going to see the bushes in front of my house and bright green blobs where the license plates are on the cars across the street. Without the V1 I can see into said vehicles reasonably well and back into the tree line behind their house. They're great tools when appropriate, and spending some time getting familiar with the rig is pretty important IMO.

On the laser end of things, I'm woefully inexperienced. I don't know what the divergence is on the IR laser, but the green VIS on my DBAL is pretty big at 50yds. I'd say half an inch at least, but it has been a while. With this in mind, there will be a point where the laser dot becomes larger than the accuracy of the firearm. This cross over point is probably WAY out there for a regular "mil spec" AR, but is likely already exceeded within 100yds on a precision gun. I had a neutral density filter on my DBAL-I2. Can't remember the exact reason, but I believe it significantly reduced bloom - it basically gave me 4 intensity settings. If the divergence isn't a problem, the bloom absolutely will be.

This is where illuminators start to really come into the picture for me - and especially their beam divergence. Being able to tighten up the beam on the DBAL or a TorchPro still meshes with my prior statement regarding vision being limited to the beam of the illuminator, but now we're fundamentally changing the shape and throw. The human eye is fairly forgiving when it comes to side spill; it is my experience that an autogated NVD is not.

This is where my experience falls off hard. The quick and dirty version is basically that the illuminator reduces the contrast around the laser and therefor reduces the bloom. If you use a vis laser in a small dark room the dot can be pretty brutal to your dark adjusted eyes. If you have a flashlight on the wall with the dot in the middle, your eyes will adjust without much drama and the laser will just be a dot.

You could probably take that thought a step farther and put on sunglasses to simulate an autogated NVD since the room is now too bright - except your sunglasses only give you a 40deg FOV.

Oh, I should also mention that I have a Phokus Hoplite on my PVS-14. I've always had it, so I probably vastly under appreciate it. Working inside? Close it. Too much ambient light? Close it. Just the fact that I can transition from inside to outside (or near to far) by opening and closing it is huge IMO. The focus is set to infinity and very rarely gets fucked with. I can probably get some pictures of what that looks like in action - it is right mental. The thing is basically an over built butler creek cap with a 1/8" hole in the middle and a built in sacrificial lens. Considering how expensive the shit is in general, I'd stick with it even if there isn't actually any voodoo to it.

My lasers are set to a horizontally parallel 50yd zero. They should be fine out to around 100yds. I don't intend to push them farther unless I absolutely have to - and even then not much farther. You can barely see the vis laser at 50yds in daylight anyway.

They make great pointers though. I felt things out on a golf course initially since I didn't have any other open areas available to me. Even the Class 1 IR lasers can be seen WAY beyond their useful targeting range. I believe the tree lines were a max of around 1400yds.

I've got some other things going on, but I'll try to get some pictures up of the with/without Phokus Hoplite.

Mojo, HomoSapien touched on this-

IR illumination does nothing to help with thermal.
They are completly seperate systems and generally speaking have different roles- as you saw during the hog hunt- Thermal for seaching, NOD for closing and killing.

Post Car,

Have you tried the orange shade Wilcox filter? It helps with eye strain and prevents the green halo around your eye if you are not running the eye cup.

If you are looking at dual tube the best value option at this point is likely the TNVC Sentinel.

I do not have any dual tube time. I have a fair amountof time on PVS -14 and a little time on PVS-14 White Phosphorus.

Dirtpro alludes to a good point: Mounting systems.

I believe he is talking about helmet suspensions. At this point the Team Wendy Boa or Ops Core H suspension seem to be the go-to choices.  
The other piece is the mount between the helmet and the NOD. A poor mount here will drive you nuts.
I used the standard USGI Norotos mount for a few years, but grew tired of the inherent rattle, and as a tall guy didn't like how high the NOD was when flipped up. I ended up with a Wilcox L4 system which largely cured the rattle and significantly lowered the NOD when flipped up. 

The Wilcox unit does several things. By minimizing NOD sway, it minimizes eye fatigue since the eye is no longer looking at a moving screen. 
By offering X, Y and Z axis adjustments, it allows the optical center of  the NOD to line up with the ocular center of eye. This is a big deal. The human eye has OCD and likes perfection. If it is focusing on a lighted oblong circle at close distance, that leads to eye strain and head aches in short order. 

Some will grip about the cost of the Wilcox units. They are guys who have little or no time behind a NOD. The value of the Wilcox  (or other highly adjustable unit) is in placing the NOD in exactly the right place in front of ones eye. The USGI system can only approximate that. 

It is said we own (or at least rent) the night. That is true. But few realistically discuss the cost of owning the night. At one time, I suggested that one would spend the same money on the peripheral equipment as they did on the NOD itself. That is still true if we are discussing the PVS-14 but not as much with the dual tube systems which essentially cost 2x the single tube. What remains true is that owning or renting the night is expensive.

For an individual or agency, plan on paying for the NOD, a quality mount system, reputable helmet, upgrade suspension system, IR illuminators for both helmet and primary weapon, and the MFAL for the primary weapon system. As an aside, you should budget for an aiming  laser for the secondary weapon or a RMR- or both.  At a bare minimum, it will take $6000 per man to get properly equipped with a PVS-14 and peripherals. If you elect dual tubes that minumum number goes to $10,000 pretty easily.

You can play with numbers and factor in that you may already have helmets or access to 1033/DRMO equipment, but the bottom line remains that NOD capability is expensive.

If you do have helmets, ensure that they are drilled to the WARCOM spec, so that you can mount the NOD shroud to the helmet.  Relevent war story follows: My Sheriffs Dept. bought 3A helmets for every man, then shortly afterwards decided to buy 4 PVS-14 per year until every badge had a set. Brass was disappointed when I pointed out they would need to buy more new helmets that were drilled with WARCOM pattern and equipped with modern suspensions since the one year old United Armor helmets had the schlocky RBR British style suspension and were not drilled for NOD shrouds.

If you have the proper helmets, and are equipped with AR carbines, the next hurdle is ensureing that the carbines are equipped with a free float rail system on which to mount the MFAL. The PEQ-2 that you can get for free out of 1033 come with a half ass barrel mount system, but it only worked with legit M4 handguards. The PEQ-2 is two decade old technology and hard to use. It lacks secondary illumination, so you will have to spend money to rectify that. 
It will be easier to install freefloat rails  on the carbines up front, then equip them with a capable, user friendly MFAL like a PEQ-15, or MAWL.

One solid way to approach this is point out that the carbines, helmets and for that matter NOD and peripherals will likely have a service life of a decade. This is not expendable gear, and can be budgeted for as a lifecycle unit over years.

All this is from an agency perspective. I have no advice on how to sell this to a wife. If you have a live in girlfriend, buy the stuff and be happy. If she grips about it, just point out that there is no marriage contract and until there is she doesn't have voting power over your checkbook. She will immediately see the logic of this well argued position and drop the subject. 

Lots of guys have way more experience than me, but I will share what I know.  I am an armed civilian "prepper" as they call us today, getting ready for come-what-may.  Many of you know all this shit, but for those that don't.    

My needs for NV are for night patrolling to interdict hostiles coming into my area, in a WROL type scenario.  This used to get laughed at soundly, but with current events, I think the need is becoming more possible if not likely.  There was a time when big name trainers scoffed at civilians using a rifle in self-defense.  I don' t think they're scoffing anymore.  

But that being said, my NV set up is as follows.  I have a Gen III ITT Pinnacle PVS14, which is ten years old, but still very serviceable.  It is thin-filmed, green phosphor.  Auto-gated and manual gain.  I think this is the minimum for serious work.  The reason I say that is because you need this performance or better, for positive target ID, out to approx. 50m, without active illum.  I think this is a reasonable limit for a 1x lens system at night.  You can add active illum, 3-4x mag, and better tube resolution to extend that greatly, but this is a good start point.  

Manual gain allows you to adjust to actual conditions, as well as reduce eye strain by dialing it down to near same image in both aided and unaided eyes for longer patrols.  Brightening it up as required in darker areas, and toning it down in brighter ones.

Auto-gating protects your tubes in typical mixed light environments.  Occasional light spikes will not fry or turn off your unit as in the old days.  It is filtering out all that shit faster than you can see and adjust for it.

I use a Butler Creek no. 07 objective lens cover, up front, with a .225" hole punched in the middle.  This gives me excellent light filtering in high light areas, as well as a decent "re-focus" ring for reading up close, with focus set at infinity.  Underneath is a GI LIF, which also acts as a sacrificial lens.  

In back is a Wilcox IR filter.  I like a lot of off-set, to run safety glasses, as well as have some good peripheral vision, so this filter prevents "racoon eye".  

I use a simple safety lanyard, made with 550 cord and a small "S" hook.   

My MNVD is helmet-mounted, which is tailor made for the -14.  This allows constant scanning as well as targeting, unlike weapon-mounted systems.  Good mounting systems are expensive; an arm, mount, shroud and helmet can cost damn near as much as a used MNVD.  But you do get what you pay for.  Until recently, I ran a GI J-arm, Rhino II mount, with a VAS shroud.  This is perfectly serviceable, but there is better.  I now run  a Wilcox -14 arm, with a legacy Wilcox L2 G05 mount.  A Revision hi-cut helmet, w/ rails, and cover, OpsCore "X" nape suspension, 4D pads, Unity Tac "MARK" Peltor hangers, ComTac III's, PT admin light, IR strobe, and C/W pouch.

My rifle has a ATPIAL-C which has both viz and IR laser, and laser illum.  This gives me a nice active system out to about 100m, which matches the range of my -14.  I also run an Eotech EXP3-0, which gives me a nice reticle, and a wider screen for passive engagement.  I plan on getting a riser that will get me up to the 2"+ range, for easier use with the helmet-mounted MNVD.   I also run a SF 300 Vampire for either white or IR illum.

I would say this is a nice system for guys looking to get into this stuff.   You can spend less, or a lot more, but this will get you into the game.


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Worth expanding this to talk about the night operations ecosystem, for those not familiar with it, or just want to stick to helmets, mounts, NODS, lasers, illuminators, scopes, and clipons? 

I don't have a full training PPT, but have the instructor notes outline for some of those we've taught if you want me to bring up all sorts of other annoying topics. 

Example of one I did write up in detail is cateyes, re-posted and further commented on here:

Scroll down, because there's lots of cute tricks that come up when you start using stuff at night. Like, where is the zero on the turrets?! So I added glow tape arrows

One other note to be pedantic: 

phosphor, most generally, is a substance that exhibits the phenomenon of luminescence. ... Phosphorus, the chemical element named for its light-emitting behavior, emits light due to chemiluminescence, not phosphorescence.

White phosphor tubes are useful in that they emit more or less the whole visible range from the back end, allowing your whole eye to receive the output, increasing the system gain, when you consider your head to be part of "the system" (which it is). Minor downsides are that they put out white light so will night blind you more, and the "raccoon eye" light splash is much more visible so you may need to run rubber eyecups to be really sneaky. 

But please don't buy a white phosphorus NOD as it will rapidly be violently on fire. 

I vote definitely to expand into T,T,P's as they can be covered.  Most everything but the cutting edge stuff is now open source so you're only hiding it from good folks that need to know.  

One concept that is very current, is passive NV engagement.  We were very fortunate that during the G-WOT, the oppo had very little, if any NV capability.  Therefore we used active IR pointers and illum with great success.  However, these days, in CONUS, the possibility of the oppo having some NV capability continues to increase, if only commonly used electronics capable of "seeing" IR/near IR.  So having the ability to fight "passive", that is without any active IR emissions (and in passing, ANY electronic emissions) is becoming more and more important.  What this means is using your RDS as a sighting device, in front of your NVD.  The big difference being that nowadays, the NVD is helmet-mounted, and lined up behind the RDS (hopefully with a usable NV setting), vs weapons mounts that were used in the past.  Oftentimes, a 3/8" to 1/2" riser is used to raise the RDS (and magnifier) up higher, so it's easier to line up behind it.  There are also purpose-built mounts that raise the optic up to "NV" height, which is around 1.93"-2.25".   

A RDS with a wide field of view is optimal for this technique.  That is why the Eotech EXP3-0 is in use and works well with this technique.  A std or micro RDS will also work, just doesn't have the same FOV.

This technique is also optimized for binos, which are usually shorter and easier to "co-witness" with your RDS, however, it IS doable with a mono -14; you just have to work harder at it.  One technique is to set up the mount system so the device is slightly off-level-high.  This will help facilitate getting it behind the RDS.  It also gives you better peripheral vision/ situational awareness, when combined with an increased off-set for safety IR glasses.  Yes, you will be looking slightly through the top of your eyes to view NV, but is a good trade-off considering, IMHO.      

Over the holidays I was walking around the house in the relative dark with my NODs on, doing normal household chores while everyone slept, but also getting some practice in. This is the nerd life I lead, using my SIRT before bed, and changing diapers under NODs. It works, if you have a limited training schedule and budget though! 

As I came though the living room, I noticed the Christmas tree was invisible. It was lit with green LEDs, and they were 100% not visible in the NOD I have. I told to my Chinook pilot friend, and he was not surprised. He told me about "ANVIS Green," and even gave me a finger light, a green LED they velcro to their finger to point at stuff in the cockpit to indicate or illuminate for those not under NODs, while also not blinding whoever is flying at the time. 

Some details here if you are a huge ned:

But what I found mostly is several things so complex it is not really well discussed at a basic end-user level. Even Army Pilot School only gives the parts they need to know. So, I put together some graphs and other data, to add to my normal briefings, of stuff focusing on things everyday ground operators (and in some cases, piggy hunters) should  understand.

Okay, lets start from scratch here. A NOD is a Night Observation Device. We usually refer to NOD when we mean monocular or binocular you mount on your head, or a "pocketscope" which is a similar sized unit intended to be handheld. Night vision scopes are just called that. "Clip ons" are night vision devices that attach to the front of a scope, have no magnification, and are adjusted such that they provide little or no point of impact change. You use the day optic to magnify the image and to have an aiming reference. 

All of these have at their core an image intensifier. If you were to take apart any of these, you'll find something like this: 

It amplifies incoming light, using technology more aligned with old CRT TVs than anything digital. This is why they are expensive, and there are export controls; only a handful of factories make them, and the scrap rate is very high even in the best of these. Flaws in the tube are almost inherent. 

I will stop talking about tubes now, because the types often elude me, and it gets to code numbers, and pros/cons that really matter based on your use. E.g. thin film (usually part of the Pinnacle package) tubes are better BUT will take irreparable damage from recoil, so know your tube before you start clipping mounts to your PVS14 and sticking them on the gun to see how that works. It may be a very expensive day. 

What is generally available to us now that matters tactically are Gen 2 and Gen 3 image intensifiers (I am not talking about CDD-driven digital night vision. We can discuss later). There was a "Gen 0" and Gen 1 does exist also, but you don't generally want to buy them for any money. Now, first thing I encountered that was shocking in my recent research was this: 

NOTE: There is no vertical scale because my data is not matched. The human eye does not see more than all the others, but I didn't know by how much so just left it up here with a note. But... note how the Gen 2 and Gen 3 parts only partly overlap. 

Image intensifiers amplify existing light sources. They also, more or less incidentally, go a short ways into the Near Infra Red bands, past human vision but near enough we can make LEDs and so on that emit in that band and use them as "covert" signaling systems. 

I had previously understood the Gen differences to be that 3 was better. And as you see, it is. 4x the system gain, so you can see in the dark better (lenses, tube quality, Gen 2+ and Gen 2 SHF..., cheap Gen 3 import tubes, etc. all bridge this gap a bit but this is ideal baseline stuff). 

I didn't know that they pick up DIFFERENT BANDS. If you turn on a red LED and look at it under a NOD, you will see it. You can see it further away than visible to the naked eye as it intensifies the light. But, if you turn on a purple LED, you can see it far away on a Gen 2 NOD and Not At All on a Gen 3. It simply doesn't see those bands. 


Light sources traditionally have emitted a very wide range of light. Here's an incandescent light bulb

Light all over, and deep into the IR (the white to the right of the dark red is invisible so they "left it out"). Many bulbs put out more IR than visible light, so we have long assumed that NODs pick up all light sources as all of them see into near IR. 


But here's a red LED: 

 Essentially nothing is emitted off-band. The LED revolution is pretty recent, so not all training and documentation has caught up to this. 

Getting back to the ANVIS Green again, image intensifiers for aviation goggles, at least in the US, have "notch filters" which specifically eliminate a few bands that have specific uses like the finger lights, and instruments, or could cause damage or distraction. Aviators (or those with aviation NODs in a ground role like me) simply don’t see those colors, so don't try to use your green LED to signal aircraft. 

And that's getting to the point of some of this band stuff. You need to know the limits of visibility. You can use it to your advantage, do things like signal each other and illuminate maps or so on IF you are confident the enemy has only certain systems. (Not applicable to typical GWOT threats, who have older generation, and even CCD based systems. And sometime I need to update this to have Gen 1 and CCDs in here also. Remind me). 

And, it’s important to know that there are limits to what you see, so relying 100% on NODs may be an issue. Think of this if everyone is on BNVDs, and doesn’t therefore also have an eye open to the outside world. 


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  • mceclip0

To pile on that, there are certain countries, like Roosians, who are researching OOB or "out of band" NV, for the express purpose of masking their signatures from us, while being able to see ours.   This is another reason for going passive.  And another reason I hate sneaky Roosians.

This is a very touchy area where details should not be made public of what our counter-measures are going to be.  Just know that the technology is there, and may be imported into this country, and may be something you go up against.  So flashing your IR pointer or illum around, again, may be a very bad idea.  Imported laser pointers and illum may be invisible to your NV, but their tubes will still be able to see yours.  Kinda sucks, huh?  

In reality, you may end up using IR light the same as visible; that is switching on momentarily to shoot (if and when necessary), then off and displace.  Not leaving it on, like all the TV and movies you see.  Very bad idea.              

Going further, imported roosian IR pointers and illum are not governed by our regulations.  In fact you can buy FULL powered laser pointer/illuminators from roosian sources.  That's right, full powered lasers.  Think of the implications of that.  If some dude is running full-powered laser/illum, he can easily flash blind you with the damn thing.  This is no joke.  This is why I think safety glasses, ideally with some kind of IR pro will be vital, going forward.

Another touchy subject, but, it should be added, GI surplus LIF (laser/light interference filter) are also a good idea to use as a sacrificial window in front of your tube.  Or going forward,  possibly other filters that will protect against other probable enemy wave lengths.

This is all info gathered from other open source websites.   

Since there have already been questions that confuse near IR with thermals, the next thing we should discuss in the whole basically how does this work system is thermals.

I made this band chart: 

Old thermals were cooled, and mechanically scanned. This was very tedious, heavy and generally a pain. Ask me how I know.

Today, every thermal you want to own (trust me!) uses electronically-scanned, uncooled microbolometers, which they call a thermal core.

These, unlike image intensifiers or previous generation thermals, are made with normal everyday electronics technology. They look and act in many ways like a CCD optical sensor. Anyone with a spare billion dollars can set up a slightly-specialized chip fab, and make thermals. Of course, people who suck at nano-scale manufacturing like Russia can't do this very well either. 

Unlike image intensifier tube life, microbolometers have no built-in lifespan. They do not wear out over time, and if treated well should last forever. As with other electro optics like RDS, their most likely failure mode is battery bay failures. So, use good batteries, take them out, lube the connections, etc.


Okay, so look at that band chart again. 

  • To the far left, is a very narrow band of "visible light" with the image intensifiers overlapping it. 
  • The two big black spikes to the right are the two key thermal bands.

Thermal is IR (infra-red) band stuff. And, well away from the near IR we discuss when we mean IR lasers and so on. Thermal imagers (or TICs: Thermal Imager Cameras) are far enough into this band they detect heat directly, so you can see equipment and living creatures not just by shape or movement, but because they emit heat.

Relative temperature matters. Thermal is not very effective on a 100° day. Think about why. 

There are effectively two bands of thermal we care about (there are others, but they are used for specialized things like astronomy, so we're going to ignore them, and I only showed the two on the chart). 

Mid-wave (MWIR)

Long-wave (LWIR)

These are entirely different systems. You have to build the core for one of these bands, or the other. They see deep into the IR band, and as with the above discussion DO NOT SEE ANYTHING ELSE. So, blinking lights? Nope, not gonna see them unless also emitting heat.  Lasers? Nope, invisible. No such thing as a thermal-band laser, and if there was it would be due to heating things up enough they caught on fire so might give away your position. 

(There are TICs with lasers: they are to bridge the gap. The guy on the thermal sees something, says "hey look over there" to people with NODs, and fires the laser to orient or target stuff.) 

Each pixel detects heat in a measurable way, and being electronic many of these cameras have heat readouts, which can be helpful.

Electronics also allow you to switch modes, to highlight hotter areas, to get predator vision, etc. Here's an example of my current thermal pocketscope watching some people with rucks and rifles and so on get deployed. You can see the temp readout, and I switch modes a few times: 


Thermal imagers do not see though ANYTHING. Movies like to show them seeing through walls, but in reality they cannot see through glass windows. They see heat, so sometimes can seem to see through things. For example, in winter, the shadows of people moving in a heated tent can be seen on the walls of the tent in real time. Buildings, however, are insulated so you can see if the building itself is heated, but not see people through walls or windows. 

This also means that people can hide behind anything at all, as usual. Trees, for example. But... if there's enough heat signature, you can see that sticking out like a sore thumb. Especially if they are moving. Different, but useful. 


You know heat mirage? How it looks like there's a puddle of water on a highway or desert pan in the heat? Well, that's a heat-specific effect, and thermals fall for it a lot. Not seeing through stuff, and seeing weird reflections is important to understand. Often, it's easier to see the heat from a vehicle as the reflection off the ground, but it's not clear what you are looking at, if not used to it. You need to practice with them to not get confused about what you are seeing. 

Heat is retained on things in ways that are not always clear. Here's a video of the middle of the night in a cold wood. The white line through the middle is a gravel (really, mostly dirt) road. Even just dirt, no pavement, retained heat from the sunny day, so hours into the dark sticks out. 

This is useful to know for both hiding from thermal systems, and to use them to detect enemy. But, its weird and confusing when not used to it. And, it is hard to predict for a new area. When moving you should be referring to the compass/map all the time so you have a general idea where you are at every moment, and don't stop, refer to the GPS, then figure out where you are. Similarly, thermals are best when you are oriented to the environment, so even if not detecting anything, you pop them up to get used to how the area looks, as the day (or night) progresses. This keeps you from shooting at rocks and tree stumps, as you understand what is showing as hot and what is really a person, deer, or pig. 

Thermal (these days) doesn't care about the sun, etc. It may not work as well during the day, due to temp differences, but it isn't a night-only device requiring safety during the day. Use it whenever you think it may help. Finding people in the woods or other dense environments can be very effective in daylight. 


Detection distance is often thrown about as a hard and fast figure. But it's not. It has to do with the size, heat difference, and if it's doing things like moving. Here's a test, with a car driving on a road about 18" above a lake. Optimal conditions. And our 160 line (low res) thermal could see it to 1000m I say:

Similar test with people. Less range, but there it is: 

This should show how helpful a lower-res unit is, or can be seen as how good a high res unit would be at longer ranges.


Since thermal band waves don't go through glass, that means the lenses on them are made of gallium glass. Aside from being poisonous, so hard to work with, simple economies of scale (there are not many thermal lenses needed, compared to anything in the optical band) mean that it's an expensive material. 

Here's Stagg looking through my X320XP with the 3x magnifier lens clipped to the front: 

That lens on the front, with no moving parts: $1600. 

So you might ask how there can be thermal cameras that clip to your phone for $250. Plastic lenses. They are pretty good, but like all optics, better is better. Someday it may be the way to go, but not yet. So, if looking for discount thermals, make sure they come with glass lenses for the foreseeable future. 

And protect your weird, expensive lenses. Get good, secure caps, use them scrupulously. 


Do not be confused by digital zoom! Most of these units have a built in zoom. It is like zoom on your phone. It just throws away the pixels around the edge, so you just turned your 640 line imager into a 320 line one. It can be useful but do NOT be confused by it. Optical magnification is different. 


Also important: refresh rates. You want 30 hz. That's a good, seamless-seeming rate. Almost all units also come with an "export" mode, at 8 hz. That gives it low enough performance the DOS doesn't mind you exporting. But, don't buy them. Not good. 


A lot of people lament that thermal doesn't see though fog, etc. But, that's because MWIR sensors have traditionally been cheaper, or something. Those do get blocked by sandstorms, rain, snow, and fog much more effectively. LWIR sensors do not. They generally can see through anything. Not literally anything, but I have encountered exactly one LWIR-proof fog in my life. 

This thread discusses WHY thermal sometimes cannot see thought stuff. Sadly, the PDF is dead but if I find another copy I'll post it.

And scroll down a bit for some examples of bad fog, and how bad it can be. 

Also interesting, thermals and obscurant smoke:



Images (1)
  • mceclip0
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Diz posted:

Going further, imported roosian IR pointers and illum are not governed by our regulations.  In fact you can buy FULL powered laser pointer/illuminators from roosian sources.  That's right, full powered lasers.  Think of the implications of that.  If some dude is running full-powered laser/illum, he can easily flash blind you with the damn thing.  This is no joke.  This is why I think safety glasses, ideally with some kind of IR pro will be vital, going forward.

Another touchy subject, but, it should be added, GI surplus LIF (laser/light interference filter) are also a good idea to use as a sacrificial window in front of your tube.  Or going forward,  possibly other filters that will protect against other probable enemy wave lengths.

This is all info gathered from other open source websites.   

LIFs are good. For laser safety, do not forget that magnification magnifies. "Eye safe" generally is to a specific reasonable range, and does NOT consider magnified optics. Magnification works just fine for magnifying IR laser, so being far away is not always safe per basic charts when using high power: a 3x magnifier extends the eye-not-safe distance by 3 x. The funnest one is you could blind yourself when using your own IR laser by reflecting back. Wear a LIF on your ACOG if you are around others with lasers, even in friendly FOF stuff. 

I have a couple Russian lasers. One, recently bought, is really very nice and is (so far) permanently on my SBR. For the price, unbeatable. I haven't mentioned it yet here because it's hard to justify as go-to-war gear, much less police-grade stuff due to some oddities, but it sure works for me. 

But far up in the few things dumb about it is no eyesafe lockout. It does have a good off switch, and I am going to get a flip off lenscap both for lens protection and to make positively sure to everyone it's not going to blind them. 

Somewhere I have a lecture on laser eye safety but cannot find it now to post. 

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Amazon has Premium Laserlenz goggles that protect in current and potential enemy wavelengths.  Not cheap but worth not going blind.  Have to see how they work with MNVD's.

This is a new area.  In theory, those with binos and LIF's would have eye pro, but those with Mono's  and one LIF would need pro in unaided eye.  I would think that some kind of eye pro, with side shields, would be a good idea; a laser filter lens even better.  

Looks like glasses/goggles are sold for particular wavelength ranges.  We would need to determine what wavelengths would be the most likely, or go broad spectrum?  Have to research some more.   

Image Intensification and Thermal are not the same critter.   Thermals see no IR light.  I2 tech sees no thermal energy practically speaking.   Fusion systems are the tits for close range social work if target discrimination is in your job description. 

Things worth mentioning.  Laser shielded eye pro are tuned to certain wavelengths.  You need to know what spectrums you are trying to protect against to buy effective laser protected eye pro.   This is easily done in a unit environment for FOF.  As was brought up above, this is less doable when wanting broad spectrum don't lase me bro glasses.  

Eye danger is a function of power and time on target.   Magnification effects power on target.   No laser is eye safe under the right conditions.  The more powerful the laser, the less room there is for error before you are now performing unlicensed lasik.  Laser safety is not bullshit and needs to be worked into your safety brief.   No blue screw = no training for you today. 

LED vs Laser MFALs.   LED IR is a more accessible tech and gives a very clean appearance to the user, as if turning on a flashlight, however it is relatively short ranged compared to laser based systems, and is visible as a faint red glow by anyone standing directly in front of the system using the unaided Mk1 eyeball.   Laser based systems like the DBALA3 and PEQ systems are not visible directly from the front but do not produce nearly as clear of an IR output.  Some new or relatively new systems don't look bad but with age and use the output will start to look like an amoeba, giving brighter and darker patches as perceived by the user. Distance is much increased with these laser based systems.  The star wars tech of the MAWL is one exception to this rule. It is laser based, and even systems ~5 years old emit super clean IR lume compared to PEQs and DBALS.  I have not had any time behind the NGAL or RAID to comment if Wilcox and L3 are catching up with BEM, but I can tell you the MAWLDA with the screw in asshole beats the living shit out of the DBALA3 and PEQ15. 

Most (even shit) security cameras see active IR emissions, and their crappy IR LEDs will reflect off your passive IR IFF and light your up like a christmas tree. 

As has been said above, MFAL is not enough, you also need a headborne and/or handdheld lume system.  However, understand that an autogated NOD is going to essentially black out anything not in the wash of that IR light source and in that way you can really fuck yourself.   

Dual tube vs single tube.   Dual tube is better for a number of reasons.   Number one reason, aside from cost, I hear people give for single tube preference is the ability to go back and forth easily.   Easily is the key word in that statement, and its a training issue.   Get good training.   Shooting with your NODs on once a quarter does not equal training.   NODs to breach and going white is one thing, prosecuting targets full spectrum under NOD is a whole different animal. 

White vs Green.   People's eyes perceive them differently.  If you can get away with it, let the guy who is going to be stuck with them make that call.  Everyone jumped on white as the latest greatest, but some people's eyes still prefer green and they will be able to resolve more detail in a green tube vs a white tube all other things about the tubes being equal. 

If you are buying commercially, the TNVC sentinel as mentioned is a great option and can be hand in both ANVIS and DD mount setups.   The RNVG is DD only but I think is a great unit purchase option.      Beware of 31s unless you've got the budget.  The tubes are fused so repair of them is much more costly than the other stuff out there.   Also if you are scraping up some second hand 31s somewhere, try to confirm whether they are blast sensitive or not.   Some of the 31s don't like XB and will blink off when the charge goes.  That issue was identified and fixed early on, but their are still sets out there with the issue and its a deal killer. 

Currently, RMRs and X300Vs are the way to go for handguns. 




I’ll jump in with some bits and pieces. This is random and in no order.

when it comes to fighting at night, your laser system is more important then your NOD. And the Illuminator is the big deal there. Biggest reason I love the MAWL is the Illuminator, second reason is the adjustment from close to mid to long range, flip of a switch over twisting the end as with the PEQ. The Illuminator on a MAWL is super clean and WIDE. On close range mode on indoors the flood is wider then my field of view, I have to hold the weapon steady and turn my head slightly to find the edges which is what I want, not a 25-30 degree circle of lum with my 40 degree FOV. 

Lasers, they are finicky. I confirm zero on my personal unit WEEKLY. Lasers aren’t like irons or red dots, tempature and humidity, altitude etc all play a bigger role with them and even the best units need to have there zero confirmed regularly. Make it habitual.

I’ve moved away from counterweights for the most part but by doing this it means my suspension and padding system has to be on point. Issue ACH gets a OpsCore H nape and team Wendy epic air padding at a minimum and I’m strongly considering buying the TW Boa suspension. This set up along with a good mount (I use wilcox, issue rhino and  j arm is crap. Night vision is expensive, take the hit and get a good mount, couple months on ramen noodles won’t kill you. On shrouds, three hole is king. One hole is a stupid design. There is multiple good shrouds out there, Wilcox and ops core are good to go (you may notice a trend with me mentioning Wilcox).

Single vs Dual. Dual wins EVERY time, especially if you have a unit where the tubes can rotate up individually (31s, DTNVG, BNVD). Yes you can train to use a 14 inside decently, but it takes a lot of constant practice and you will never be as efficient as you would with duals. It’s just physiology, two eyes are better then one. The thought of having one eye available in case you have to go white light is old and out dated. If I walk info a room and the lights come on I can just tilt my head up and look under my NODs and through my T1 or Razor. You can work like this or heck newer systems are fine running in lighted conditions for short amounts of time. 

I like the units that rotate as it helps with balance when stowed, yes I can rotate one up for looking through a optic but the biggest thing is balance and lower profile when stowed.

Dream set up for general purpose use. White phos 31s or DTNVG with PAS-29 and a MAWL and SF M600DF. I’m almost there on that setup.

Strictly urban work in and out of houses, white phos panos. You can’t beat that FOV indoors.

Another note to add, white light is part of your night fighting setup even if you have the best night vision and thermal. The Army has this idea that all you need on your rifle is the PEQ (and trying to replace that with POS FWS-I) thus big army does not issue or train guys to use white light. This is a dangerous mistake that will come to light next time we have any big urban fighting. Get good white light setup and learn to use it, then when you get NVGs learn to use them, then learn to integrate them.

On integration, if you have a visible laser, you need to be able to activate it AND white light simultaneously. It’s expensive but Unity Tactical TAPS does this, I learned this lesson the painful way at DARC. Kept getting randomly attacked by swarms of bees.

If using these for work on the .mil side it’s to easy to just change out batteries before you go out. That being said, learn to switch batteries on the fly, IE put the NODs on and figure out how to unscrew, swap batteries, and reseal and restart the unit quickly while worn. PCCs and PCIs SHOULD prevent this from ever being done in a fight but Murphy loves to show up at weird times and you never know what your gonna find a dud battery. Same applies for laser and light.

ive seen folks mount there lasers and sometimes light close to the optic rather then pushed forward towards the end of the rail. I don’t care for this, I want my light and laser as close as I can safely get them to the muzzle. This helps mitigate barrel shadow from white light and lum. I say mitigate rather then eliminate cause with a can you’re  still gonna get a bit or barrel shadow. I mentioned safely, some lasers have shown they can be damaged by the concussion  coming from the muzzle. 

A bunch of topics, pretty briefly noted, as this is my outline for night operations/night fighting training and we mostly just talk about it, use actual objects and live demos vs a PPT. 

  • Accountability principles and tactics

  • "Periodic checks...

    • Hierarchy (count your SLs, they count people)

    • Remind, ask, do not assume. Mistakes are easier to make, and harder to fix. Make sure everyone understands. 

    • Running passwords, counts, and "Last Man"

    • Night tricks: Get all touchy. Do not point as no one can see (and if they can, depth of field can be lost, field of view is narrow) but talk and touch at the same time.

  • Team tactical movement principles

  • Cateyes, hanging on to each other,...

    • ERPs (remember to pass tactile, not just visual)

    • Running passwords, last man, touch to count

    • Listening Halts. Critical! 
      • Hard to convert believers to this task, when most training lanes are 800 meters long.
      • In reality, movements are long, and tiring!
      • Tired folks are noisy travelers.
      • Our own footsteps mask outside noises. 
      • Rest/listen task becomes challenging in very hot and very cold environments.
      • High-temp problems seem obvious, but people usually push too hard. And then need to cool down.
      • Cold-temps run a greater risk of trouble during this cool down phase.
        While on patrol we are generating lots of heat and need to dress lighter (or not and then get sweaty)
      • Either way when settling down for a "listening halt" everyone needs to make sure than as much of that heat is retained as possible.
      • Either sit together/back to back or throw on a layer/wind break.
      • This is one area where the ""stupid poncho"" is still hard to beat, and in no-way stupid.


  • Team organization for navigation and patrolling

    • Point doesn't navigate
    • Each has one job
    • Multiple pacecounts
    • Multiple everything
    • Passing info, contact


  • ERPs, Patrol Bases, and OPs

  • Human vision at night

    • No matter how much tech you have, you will not use it every moment. Tech breaks, etc. etc. You have to know how to use your eyes. 
    • Remember: Rods are a primary way that humans detect movement. The darker it gets the more we rely on the rods to give us information. Foveal vision: cannot use the central area well at night!
    • Mesopic and Scotopic vision mean that movement is by FAR the most important consideration for detection at night.
    • A perrenial favorite of mine is to teach night viewing techniques observing a human wearing UCP/ACUs. Perferably with the moonlight breaking through the leaves of overhead trees. The pattern works shockingly well in that environment... right up until the target moves an arm or starts walking. This effect is often possible with the observers and target only 10-15 meters away! 
  • Night vision overview
    • Generations, whine, glow, throw, light safety, cutoff, battery technology (why lithium), future fusion syustems, etc.

    • CCDs are inherently IR, so nightshot mode can allow anyone to have limited IR detection. Careful! 

    • Thermal is not night vision. Intensifiers, NIR as a side effect, and thermal is mid/long IR. SEES heat.
    • Thermal bands. Far sees better, near (common!) does not see through dust, smoke.
    • Not all night vision has the same ability to see the IR spectrum. If Brett still has some Soviet/Russian night vision, Especially the ones with IR illuminators then I might be worth setting up a lane to show people the weirdness of NODs. There are more than a few systems that cannot see IR light emitted from modern systems and vice versa.
    • Night vision fatigue. Both vision and mental. Listening halts good spot for resting eyes specifically.
    • Mount better helps with fatigue: wobble, focus, weight. Counterweight pros and cons.
    • Non-coincidental vision, binocular vs. monocular pros and cons for individuals and situations
    • Illuminators: Usually no (and enemy can see them if they have NODs) but can be important indoors, in urban areas where contrast makes dark areas easy to hide in (and light is not so much an issue). If you clear caves, you want one! 
  • Night operations tactics and techniques
    • Location. "Muscle memory" to find things (practice, practice, practice. And do not change your rig every week!)

    • Get familiar with feel. Sometimes radio dials are different sizes, etc. just for this

    • Enhance! Add cateye bits, reflective tape. When I backpacked I had a small flashlight with glow tape, and my big one had reflective. It helped. "

    • Sound discipline "Moving slowly, and other movement tactics (plant before lifting; team must establish speed based on threat)

    • Ambient noise. Wind, rain, and nearby noises (industry, waves on coasts, rivers) can mask you. Plan accordingly.

    • Sound travels, even across surfaces so shallow curves won't always stop sound from traveling.

    • How to talk on radio, or have conversations: in holes, etc.

    • Low talking, NOT whispering.


  • Weapons Operation, and Administration

      Check batteries while daylight. Change if possible.

    • Know how to change batteries by feel. Know where spares are. 
    • Know orientation. Most are marked, find out how in daylight. 
    • Crossover round checking when loading rifle. All mags to the same (I do 28, why better than 29 for consistency), per the team
  • Night camouflage:
    • Color/shine seems a non-factor for NVDs, however many fabrics and plastics reflect IR light. 

    • Also need to find some stuff that's BLACK under NODs, day camo turns to bright stripes because PALs webbing becomes black.

    • Discuss IRR fabrics and so on.

    • Non-military ponchos are a classic example, as are light-weight water/wind proof jackets. Curfman softshell.

    • Thermal defeat


  • Lights/Illumination/Identification
    • Cateyes, and night-acclimation

    • IR lasers and illuminators for identification "Illum is a flashlight

    • At distance, IRR is just a dot, so ID is a close range thing"

    • Light discipline and white/red light use: Have someone downrange, some distance, with various lights. Show how little a red light is visible pointed down and low, how much it showsn pointed at you.

    • Using GPS, etc. HARD TO DO. All are vastly, vastly too bright. Hoods. Screen dimmer films (lighting gels) Show thermal remote display, green overlay on and off. Discuss hoods, using under-poncho time. 

    • Communicate by HT, not yelling. Show how the LEDs on radios are poison! Tape them up.

    • Show how IR goes through things. Pocketing the phone, or HT, won't hide the light.

    • Also how mobiles have IR emitters on all the time, so really hide them!

    • Tactical use of white light, and flares White: traditionally on, shot, off, move. Hard to do. Hard to remember, and you emit longer than you find; may expose you to fire, and disorient you more than the enemy. If you need white light, often best to just leave it on for the fight. 

    • Flares: Do not look at the pretty fireworks! Noise, don't look up. Ideally, cover (not just close!) one eye to keep night vision in it. Use the other totake advantage of the light, look around.

    • Flares are loud. If firing one, remember it's a big gun.

    • Flares with NODs. No damage likely, but think of how you want to close an eye...Pirate eyepatches. 

    • Cyulume tricks. Brightness and time.

    • IR only, colors as markers and for blood detection, etc.

    • Covering with the wrapper for partial/directional use. 

    • Mini sticks. Not just on but INTO the ground vertically, in pits, taped to lines, to radios, etc. Longer ones as arrows, turns

      Night Aiming
      • Backlight (flares, flashes, white light, etc) - Larger aperatures. Snapshot front sight only. Sight ears, grenade sights, etc. Clip on night sights on old school systems, esp combloc.

      • Tritium Irons

      • Illum scopes

      • RDS works same day and night

      • IR Lasers - Generally best but close range and emitter

      • Clip On – Best option for night "scope" now, II or TI

      • Biggest issue is finding and identifying targets

      • Accountability in Tactical Use: While we like total PID these days (and in LIC), in a larger action, or a more fluid one the best way to quickly tell who to shoot at is accountability. Good understanding of where the good guys are CAN mean everyone else is a bad guy.

      • Night shooting demonstration: Flash, illuminates the target but you more

      • Tracers

      • Dust, light and NODs obscured by what is kicked up; Worse indoors where gasses don't dissipate

      • Thermal: guns get hot. Easy to see, target. 


      • EMCON
        • We can no longer assume we "own the night." No more lasers all the time, no more automatically flipping on the IR driving lights, etc. 
        • Assume every enemy has night vision. Think EMCON, Emissions Control. Like you don't use white light, don't yell, you no longer emit IR without it being part of the TTPs, briefing, or orders. 
        • Lasers are becoming like white light; only usable for speed in assault, at relatively close range. To initiate combat, want passive systems so the enemy doesn't see you coming. 
        • Weak eye laser, strong eye RDS; practice flipping
        • Higher RDS easier, bigger RDS easier
        • RDS brightness
        • Nothing is parallax free; but at small arms offhand combat ranges, any dot is minute of man
        • Clipons
      • Future Trends
        • Color / Digital or otherwise
        • Fusion (PSQ20 is gen 1, it'll get smaller/lighter/longer-life)
        • Distributed systems/digital integration
        • Wireless links, off body aiming
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I have had, used, or serviced a number of night vision devices, and seen a lot more over the years. So aside from showing what I have, thought it might be worth explaining everything. 

To follow, my history on: 

  • Night vision scopes and observation devices, clip ons
  • Laser aiming devices*
  • Thermal
  • Night vision photography

Eventually. Someone else should talk about strobes, and IRR ID panels, since I know for a fact I am behind the curve on those. At least, as allowed on an open forum. 

* And probably need to talk about how well the Mepro works to shoot behind without a riser. Hmm... 


Head Mounted Night Vision, and Mounts: 

While I'd looked through NODs since at least 1999, my first useful experience was more like 2004. As part of a training org I used mostly PVS-7 (both Gen 2 and 3) as part of OPFOR, for training lanes, etc. I was one of the bigger nerds around, so often grabbed them, back in a time period people didn't understand or trust them, so they were often spare! 

During my time with this group, I learned a lot — by making many mistakes first — and became effective enough with them I learned how to entirely clown the students, even when they were also issued NODs. I recall one time they had not taped up the radios, so despite moving quietly in a draw, were lighting up the tree canopies along their route, so I had the OPFOR team follow along the woodline edge, and then when they turned and came feeling their way down a dark path towards us, stood in the middle of the path and lit them up at like 10 yards range. Felt a bit like this: 

Yeah, exercise admin told me to stop murdering everyone, reset the students  

Okay, to earlier lessons, I once spent about 6 hours with PVS-7s on a non-flip-up skullcrusher, following some enemy sneaking around the woods near our OP. Just to finally sneak up on them when they took a listening halt and absolutely scare the crap out of some deer. 



At some point in here I became aware of shrouds, mounts and so on, and mounted this all to "bump helmets" by converting DH132 (CVC) shells into high cut helmets. Get 4 point harnesses, velcro, OA pads, stencils, spraypaint, glue. I made probably half a dozen of these, sold a few to Lightfighters back in the day. Definitely didn't ship any to other countries as that would be an ITAR violation:

Here's a totally shit photo of me in one with a not-great three point harness and PVS7 mounted, c. 2006.

This all led to me being The Night Vision Expert for this trng group, so when they got some cash, they decided they needed to add night vision training schedules, wanted to buy a dozen or so monoculars, but what? So, they had me decide. 

I ended up specifying the D300 with Gen 2+ SHP tubes. Very good stuff, all in all, and despite being damned heavy compared to more current offerings, they are still in service so that seems to have panned out. 

The name is stupider, but the D300 seems to still be sold as this unit now.

Engraving the units, stenciling the boxes, and so on (2008)

I do not know really who makes these. At the time it seemed they were Western Euro tubes, made in Denmark so I heard, if they have a tube factory. Maybe, the whole unit is from some vague euro country? I never found out. But they seem nice. Despite having zero parts in common with the PVS7/14, they are the same size, take normal J-arms, and have the switch in the same place, moving the same way. The lenses are even the right diameter to take compasses and magnifiers. So, they worked just fine for this.

A number of people associated with the org bought similar units for themselves, and didn't regret it, but as it goes: upgraded them over time. 


IMPORTANT NOTE:  One thing to take away from this history is the timeframes. You cannot do what I did anymore, and you cannot trust older threads about what night vision to buy. Many of those deals/devices do not exist anymore; the trustworthy foreign imports disappeared for various reasons, and have been replaced by sketchy foreign imports. It used to be you could buy any night vision device from eBay or Craigslist and had a 98% chance of getting what you were promised. Now, every idiot and their grandma builds night vision from parts, and you cannot trust what tube is in it, or what life is left on it. A good trick is people tweaking the pots on the power supply to brighten up an old tube. It'll work, but for 5-10 hours only. 

So, unfortunately, these days you have to buy from trusted sources, including very good friends, authorized distributors, and the few good rebuilders. 



A few other friends got the MiNi14/MUM-14 in this timeframe. Light, because of a plastic case, which is great but also pretty marginally designed for serious work. Seen a few broken switches and so on. And, just weird. My least favorite is that it has no 1/4-20 thread so no standard J-arm, which means lots of wobble at their custom terrible interface, only their J-arm works, and it's pretty expensive and awful. And a really odd green on the phosphor side. Used them a few times, but never wanted to buy one of them.  


Around 2010, a surplus dealer we bought lots of radio supplies from got a lot of surplus Oregon NG PVS-5s in. I got one, for some insane price (way under $1000, but I forget exactly what). They were so nice they made people angry; I know several folks who drove bumpily across Iraq with these on their heads, but the pads all worn out and covered in duct tape so it was pain.

Yes, they were legit surplus. Advertised, he had hundreds, and it came with the yellow stickers on the transit cases, which I kept. 

I found them delightful in many ways. Really good optics, and despite being Gen 2 (there are gen 3 aviation sets, but not mine) they were very bright, high resolution units. Better than many people's gen 3 units I got to try out, side by side with them. 

As much as adjustment for monoculars is important, adjusting binoculars is CRITICAL, and these had enough adjustment to make them work okay. Good interpupillary distance adjustment, and individual focus. PVS-7s only have one focus, and a poor adjustment for interpupillary distance, that doesn't work so well for me (they have two outputs so are effectively binoculars for the sake of the occular side). 

However, this was a step back for me in many ways, as I had used the Rhino and J-arm for a while, and not being able to flip them up, or away, was an issue. This is not a problem with good modern dual-tubes, but it is important. 

For example, one time I came around the corner while driving a truck in the dark, and there are streetlights. The dew on the window or something glared more than usual, I couldn't see a thing. Before I could get things straightened out, there's a bump, then a Big Bump, then I am heading 30° downhill. I stopped, and didn't crash, but had threaded the truck (cleared by inches) between a telephone pole and a steel T fencepost. 


IMPORTANT NOTE:  Your experiences are your own. I do not think dual/single tube is a decision that is universal, much as (see below) no-counterweights is not a 100% universal truth. Missions vary, as do humans. I, for example, have  the fairly common "non-coincidental vision" or phoria. I trained myself to use RDS properly but still don't use binoculars as well as I could, or do both eyes open with iron sights every time. Binocular NODs have never given me all the supposed benefits of things like a sense of depth, but that may be me. You may do much better. 

There is no test for this. You need to try to get behind several NODs. Go to a training or demo day, or just pony up a few bucks to rent some. Yes, they have rental places, I can suggest one or two. I know a few people who have been very happy they tried before they bought like this. 


The various issues put me vaguely in the market to get back to monoculars. I have over time come to really like monoculars. Aside from size and weight (and cost!) they also allow a nice flexibility. You always are looking at the real world, so can better use the system at dawn and dusk, as you enter lighted areas, to identify visible lights, muzzle flash, tracer. Once the other eye is night acclimated, you can use the NOD to navigate, but the other eye to avoid branches, and so on, as even on the darkest night outside, you can see a little bit.  

After some casual searching, I ran across and bought, for a similarly crazy price like $800, an ENVIS with all the bits and cases and paper. Had to drive to Nebraska to pick it up from a guy's house. The M703E is the Evaders Night Vision System, and is deliberately supposed to sound like ANVIS. After the Bosnia Grady shootdown and evasion, USAF decided to include a night vision pocketscope in the survival vest. This is purportedly it, though it's unclear if that's 100% true, and if the fairly few on the market are surplus or over-runs or what. They are so poorly marketed, I tend to buy they are real, though more likely over-runs than surplus. 

Regardless, they are a plastic cased pocketscope, about the size of a PVS-14. 

They have a weird pushbutton power switch, a somewhat poor battery case, and have a 1/4-20 thread in the wrong place to mount them. You can make adapters, and eventually I bought a better purpose built one, to head mount it as shown above. They take most PVS-7/14 bits, such as the LIF, compass, and rear filters. 

Tubes are generally great to amazing. They are — supposedly, but apparently from quality and inspection — reject ANVIS tubes, so very bright, very high resolution, just with some flaw or other. Mine has a few spots, but is still among the best tubes I've used. 

Thin filmed, so it's pure dumb luck I didn't ruin it before I knew better, as I have weapon mounted it, and even did a behind-scope setup on my .308 once! No gain dial, which is the only real downside. 


The ENVIS lenses are desired, and most of all the lens mount is. They are not secured from inside, but are normal C-mount. So, you can unscrew them and change lenses if that is your thing. Hence, they are beloved for astro-photography nerds and the like. I have something better for photography myself, but still, it's a thing so I got a call early last year from Pete Lesbo at I2, who said he knew I had one I didn't love, how about selling it.

I instead said I wanted to keep the tube, so upgraded to a VYPER case. That's a thing. If you want to build a NOD, you can get one built. There are aftermarket cases that are PVS-14 compatible, but have various improvements. I don't understand them all but the VYPER is a plastic (fiber reinforced, well regarded) case that is generally stronger than the issue PVS14 aluminum, for a tiny fraction of the weight. 

NOTE: There is indeed a whole world of refurb and options, if I still had the PVS5s today I'd send them off to get turned into dual tubes with a bridge. That is cool enough I have thought slightly about snagging some if I see a deal and doing that when I have spare money. If you blow a tube, or want to upgrade your tube (WP anyone?) then there are people who can stick a new one in for generally a lot less money than buying an all new unit. 


NOTE: I have been ASSURED three times as I kept asking, that some power supply issues in PVS14s have been traced to Lithium batteries. Alkaline give such poor life they aren't a good answer, so the best is NiMh, rechargeables. So, I am using those as I have a bunch. Not awesome for long life storage of spares, but it is what it is. If anyone else has heard this, or can dismiss it, go ahead. 


My current setup for my personal night vision is this: 

Helmet: An MSA MICH. Nope, not an ACH, but somehow I ended up with an early production surplussed MICH, and the original MSA MICH cover (among others), starting to look more than a little natty now. 

Yeah. It's a ratchet strap. I have done various bolt on systems, but for my main helmet still use the ratchet strap. On purpose. First because it is a snap, without tools, to change covers. I know almost no one else has to do that, but I do and it helps. But also because it is very secure, and easy to fix: loose? Just tighten it up. No tools needed. Never caused me any issues at all. 

The suspension is OA pads, on the original velcro. Yeah, I have tried others. Do not like. These work. Note that there's a gap along the sides. This allows use of earpro. I wear Sordins most of the time I have this on, so I just pull the crown pad, wear the earpro under it, no problem. 

The earpro has some sort of snazzy top cover and replacement foam, so on the off chance anyone shoots at me, and hits me in the top of the helmet, I have a decent chance of the sordin foam and band protecting me from the helmet secondary impact, also.

Harness is an Ops-Core X-Nape. Seems to be more stable than the H, so what I suggest always. 

Helmet band! Mostly, to get the cateyes, but I ran across someone doing the custom ones with the offset name cheap so got away from sharpie. 


Crye Nightcap: More often than not now, I use the Nightcap instead. It is what it is, and is awesome. As stable as any platform I have used. Everyone who borrows it then goes and buys one. 

Back velcro has a single big GITD marker and an IRR/GITD name. 

Shrouds: I do not recall which shrouds I have. Can find out if it matters to you all. 

Wilcox L4G11: I still personally own a couple of the Norotos aluminum, have many more for CWG stuff, and have messed with the titanium Norotos improved model Rhino. The basic one is fine. Nothing awful, but adjustment range can be an issue.

Largely solved with the titanium one, but it's titanium. Some bad choices for adjustment systems, and it binds up. I disassembled and painted one for someone else. Didn't work great. I did get them basically workable by making a titanium friendly lube of baking soda and lithium grease. No, really. 

The L4 G11 is another step up. YES, it's the force-to-overcome model, not the pushbutton, but I like that because the way the springs work, they push down constantly. It cannot get loose like the pushbutton ones can. One wobble, eliminated. Also, a bit of give in the system if you bump stuff. More than once my NOD has ridden up from a branch or falling. It works. 

YES, it's the bayonet system, not the dovetail. Mostly because for classes we loan, interchange, try out each other's stuff, and I don't want to be the "no, my stuff is too cool" guy. But after all I am happy with it. 

And not by default to justify being happy. I do not need bungees to keep from wobbling. I have recently set up friends with bungees, because their setups still shake. I've just stuck some silicone in voids on the J-arm interface, and you push hard to get it on. This is functionally the same as a bungee: an elastomeric component takes up slack. 

This model also has much more adjustment range, in depth, elevation, and it slides up and down. Good stuff. 

ENVIS: The envis is covered above generally. Here's the VYPER case overview: 

It has a retention lanyard wire tied to the NOD which is a 3/4" SR. The NOD side one has shrink tube as a silencer. The helmet side has elastic, and an adjustable barrel lock. 

The lens cover has velcro cut neatly in a circle. Unusual for me! The hook velcro is on the body, but I think needs to move to the top of the J-arm. There was no cap retention so I added the kevlar cord seen in blue.

Under the cap is the screw-in LIF. 

On the back is the screw-in purple filter, which is working oddly well, even with no rubber padding. I will cut up a PVS-14 eyecup to give me a little rubber padding if I ever find myself getting excessively banged in the nose, but it works so far. 

I have a spare ANVIS-9 case, which I have ID on, and store my NOD, Nightcap, mount, and some other stuff (IRR tags, strobes, batteries...) so I have one case to grab and go. 



When You Put Your NODs On: 

A lot of the problems that arise from use of NODs is poor adjustment. This is the process I walk almost everyone through to make sure they know what's up.  

  1. Attach the mount arm. Make sure it is securely attached to the shroud. 
  2. Put the NOD somewhere you can get to it. Pouch, table, etc. 
  3. Loosen the straps for your helmet. 
  4. Put the helmet on. Tighten the straps. Tighten the rear a tiny bit more than you think you might need to. 
  5. Pull the mount arm down firmly. Pull down more. The helmet should move to settle under the weight, but not flop around. 
  6. Move the mount shoe all the way forward.
  7. Clip on the NOD. Pull, to make sure it is locked in. Attach the retention lanyard. 
  8. Turn on the NOD. 
  9. Slide the NOD as far back as you can, without touching you. Now, shake your head. Left to right, then up and down. If the NOD bumps into you, or the helmet is obviously loose, tighten everything. If you can't tighten more, move the NOD one notch forward. 
  10. [Assuming the old school Norotos Rhino, with few adjustments] tilt the NOD until a complete circle of green is visible. If some is not visible to the side, grab your helmet and twist to center it on your head. Re-tighten straps as needed after this. 
  11. Using the grooved ring near the back end of the NOD, focus the static
  12. NOW, using the front grooved ring, facing [some specific distant object] focus the image. Look down, notice you need to focus again. Do that for a few objects so you get used to it. 

Most people automatically do most steps, so it's not as involved as it seems. Last three are the ones matter, and which have improved the ability of people who have been using issued equipment for years, while getting shot at. 


Counterweights: I have never liked them, and have good human factors reasons to think they are not a good idea, at least not for everyone all the time due to weight on the neck. From my limited experience helping some people set them up, and talking to folks who use them full time (e.g. AFSOC using ANVIS in ground role, some notes I have gathered:  

  • Keep total helmet weight as low as possible. If you have to run a box on the back, get the lightest possible helmet, don't also wear a gopro, remove the strobe unless using it (and get a lighter one regardless), even remove the goggles if you don't use them all the time. 
  • Don't over-weight the back. There are a couple of battery box sizes, so pick the smallest you can get away with for the mission profile. The goal is to reduce the front drag, but like weight on the muzzle of a rifle, some weight up front stabilizes your view; so do not perfectly balance, or rear-load, but leave the center of gravity forward still.
  • De-snag everything. Get the proper length wires, double check all connections, and run them under the helmet cover (or at least through the tubes on a custom cover). Use tape and wire ties if need be, but do not have things get snagged and try to rip your head off when running around the a/c or through the woods. Make sure it's as un-snaggy as possible when NODs are up and down.
  • Think about your environment, and try it out. Will a lump on the back of your helmet bang into things when you turn corners in hallways?  Will overloading your ruck break your neck as it bears on this? Or shear it off if you are just velcroing it on? Can you get through the top hatch? Will it be comfortable, and not snaggy, in whatever seat you are likely assigned to? Will it be comfortable in that seat for 2 hours? 12 hours? In turbulence or rough roads? 
  • It is a battery. What happens if it goes bad, or simply runs out? Can you change it, or even just flip the switch to go to internal/other bank, without taking off the hat and having good light to do this? Can you do that with your weapon at the ready? When prone? When wearing a fully loaded ruck? When falling through the sky? 


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Good stuff.  I think Shoobe has done a great job of running down the legacy systems, and where he ended up.  There is something to be said for good monocular systems still.  For many of us,  outside/woodland patrol is still our main forte, and the -14 still does a very good job at this.  This is an important consideration.  Your mission, METL, training and equipment to support it.  If you're an assaulter, you love BNVD's.  If you're a prepper, -14's work really well.  Terrain and situation.  

Night movement and patrolling.  Having done some of it, both with and without NV, there are some things that are timeless and others to account for the new era we're in.  For instance we've all heard the stories about how some dude snuck so close to the enemy, he was getting splash from his piss on him.  Things like this are getting harder if not impossible to pull off, due to the proliferation of NVD's.  So now you can no longer take for granted the "cloak of darkness"; night time patrols must be approached much like day time patrols, as far as visual observation goes; terrain masking/staying off sky lines, casually skirting open areas, etc.  Not to mention sneaking into the enemy's lager.  Things you could "get away with" at night are not so doable in a high NV threat environment.  But all is not lost.  There are still some techniques that work but require practice to maintain.

In the beginning, with no NV, you might be surprised how good you can get at night.  There is oftentimes some light to use, so with a little practice, your night vision is surprisingly good.  You learn to cock your head, much like a blind person does, which aligns the ear with noise, and coincidently your eyes for night vision viewing.  BTW hearing is much more critical at night, oftentimes more so than vision.  Lots of times you will hear someone before you see them.  And touch.  You learn to literally feel your way through the bush, instead of crashing through it.  So yeah your other senses can compensate quite well for the lack of vision.  Just takes a little practice.

When I first added NV, it was merely a supplement, used basically as you would day optics.  I would halt and use it as a pouched, hand-held device, to scan the area in front of me on security halts, DA's, etc.  It merely replaced binoculars used during the day.  And I would add this is still a very viable technique.  So it merely supplemented your "natural" NV. 

Next I weapons-mounted it, which was cool, but had limitations, and luckily I never fucked up the tube.  Worked great in static, defensive positions, but no so much for movement.  Some added capability.  Stayed on NV longer.

Then I finally helmet- mounted it.  This was a game-changer.  Now you had a constant NV scan.  When combined with an IR laser, you could also shoot with it.  Aided NV now became more than a supplemental thing; it became a primary thing.  In upgraded form, this is where I'm still at today.  

The next step in the evolution is binos.  I have very little experience with them and will defer to the pros here.

What I would add is that depending on your mission, a MNVD, such as the -14, is still a very viable piece of equipment.  Although many have evolved past this, it is still a very good tool for those of us who still do mostly woodland patrolling and such.  I like combining one aided and one un-aided eye, for scanning ahead, and still being able to see up close around me.  So I try to combine T,T,P's from the new, and the old, to give me the best way of doing things, for my terrain and situation.  

Would some new binos work even better for me?  Of course they would.  But there are many priorities for me, so I make do with a "good" set up, not the "best" set up.  So I try to leverage skill sets from my past, combined with newer tech from the present, to develop a good night time SOP.

But again, this is for me, and my particular situation.  I am concerned mainly with night time woodland patrolling.  I would most likely, "flip up" and fight with RDS/white light.  I am not an assaulter, doing high-speed CQB.  Not that I wouldn't like to learn that, but I don't have training and equipment.  Yet.                   

Scopes and Clip-Ons

NOTE: I have very limited experience with thermal scopes and not past a passing familiarity with thermal clipons, so am including them in my lists here, but will not be discussing them in detail. 


I have used more scopes than I can count. Some of these I have just used briefly, cleaned and repaired, or spent an evening doing comparative testing on. Several I have carried about in the woods, and (live fire) shot with repeatedly. A handful I have owned, with my own money. 

But... literally more than I can say. Here's a list of those I know I have encountered: 

  • Fero Z51
  • Orion 80
  • PAS-19
  • PVS-2
  • PVS-3
  • PVS-4 - Modern updates make this pretty good, easy to feed, if large still
  • PVS-300
  • PVS-502
  • TVS-2
  • TVS-4
  • TVS-5
  • Mini Osprey
  • And... several Combloc rigs


Scopes are scopes. That means a dedicated night sighting system. And that means we're back to thinking about the sighting system in the way the European marksman does: the scope is an accessory, stored in a case that the Army even thinks should go on your belt. You put it on when needed. 

And if you have a day scope, that comes off. Zeroing can be a concern, because even with very good mounts, they aren't perfect. Damage is an issue. And even just switching modes becomes a problem. 

In theory, in more recent times, you can use the night system during the day. A good example, reflected in a pop media experience was Sgt Colbert's use of an MNS (PVS17... B?) day and night during OIF 1. As shown in Generation Kill as better photos than reality: 

Day cover on: 

Thermals work day or night, but don't give good target contrast in warm days so aren't awesome. From Gen 2 onward especially, you can use day covers and filters, but, they often mess with point of aim and especially on catadioptric lenses, can be distracting, or even seem to cause POI shifts. 

PID is a serious issue as well. Daytime assumes we can see as good as your eyes or better, that you get color, etc. Modern units have good resolution, but as with thermal contrast issues, IIs in day may have contrast and other issues that make the image less useful. 

Night vision scopes generally do not zoom, so you get what you get. The mounts are generally in the way of iron sights or otherwise preclude their use. So, you get 4x (or whatever) all the time. 


No way I can recall details well enough for each one to be detailed out, but some general overview impressions: 

Gen 1 - Nearly useless. They can do well with illumination but the illuminators are large and give away your position. Maybe not to game animals, but they are a pain generally, and they can interfere with others' night vision aiming or observation systems. 

Gen 1 in general tends to have rather bad spherical aberration so bad I won't show photos as they generally are not such a problem when looking through the scope, for targeting, ID, etc. Your eye adjusts fine to it in reality. Obviously, this varies from one to another. Combloc scopes tend to be worse in this regard. 

Gen 1 - Cascades can get insane light gathering. Cascade means you take the output from one image intensifier and feed it right into another one! Three is typical, and the limit for it before noise overcomes the system.

The performance can get up deeply into Gen 3, SNR. TVS 4 quality is simply amazing, but it takes a truck to haul that around. 

Gen 1 cascades can be easily overwhelmed by nearby lights, even those that seem to be out of view with all sunshades in the way. Some of these that perform well in ideal conditions are straight up useless in built up areas, and can have issues with even that one farm house light 800 yards off. 

Cascades are very large. Very long night vision scopes are cascades, almost always. 

Gen 2 and 3 are... what you'd expect. They start to get small enough they are more usable, and have all the upside to modern tubes as discussed elsewhere for NODs. Except... many of the scopes are still bigger than you might expect. There's a design mindset that since it's not to be head mounted, go for max performance! So, gen 2 units (and some Gen 3) are rather bigger than they have any right to be. The performance is better, but since you have to haul it around, you may disagree it is worth it. 

Zeroing, and mounts, are somehow often just stupid and awful on the older systems. The PVS300 is a good example. It is a PVS3 updated with a Gen 2 tube, and welded back together (badly, I had to have it re-welded) by someone I know) to be shorter. Nice size. Makes lots of sense. Except, it is an externally-zeroed unit. And to make it smaller and Pic-rail compatible, they ditched the large, heavy, custom PVS3 mounts for an ELCAN mount. Except... it's five times heavier a scope, so won't hold zero. Ask why I don't own the PVS300 anymore. 

Speaking of: if you have a G3/HK33, or a FAL or a few other older weapons, the older scopes can be an especially good deal, as they come with (or at least have available) mounts for these weapons. They are generally rock solid, reliable, repeatable, Joe-proof systems. Worth a look. 

Get an illuminated reticle! Black ones are fine for precision work, and under most conditions. Remember, the whole scope glows. But not all conditions are ideal, and for speedy shooting it takes a moment to get the reticle found and lined up. To pick on the PVS300 again, it was a perfectly nice cross with a center dot. But, black. So while the eyebox was good, and weight was suitable you couldn't actually walk (or bounce) towards a target shooting as you might, because picking up the black reticle was too hard. 

If it is a reticle, not just a graticule, make sure it is for you weapon system, and find out how to use it. Night, and magnification, can make range estimation hard and holdovers may be critical. Figure out how to shoot well behind the thing. Even simple reticles for night vision are usually feature heavy, so RTFM! 

The following advice is for all weapon mounted night systems, not just scopes, but while we're here let's cover them:

Muzzle flash will blind the scope for a moment. It won't ruin it, but you will loose the image even if recoil doesn't mess with you. Use good ammo, use good flash hiders, and try to get suppressors as they are best. If you can. Otherwise, plan accordingly. Do not expect to see the splash, do not expect quick followup shots. 

Due to the lack of the non-scope eye staring at darkness, there's no orientation and it will take MUCH longer to come back on target from recoil. 10-20x as long is typical. Again, plan accordingly. Accurate fire will be slow. Especially when combining movement with fire, take your time and be sure everyone has met their objectives, instead of using daytime stopwatches. 

Variable gain is good! It can be a pain on NODs, but on scopes you will often set up and take a moment to observe or aim. It really helps clear up the image, or dig into dark spots. 

Learn how to focus! Same as above NOD stuff for batteries, and other setup. Do not just give someone a night scope/observer and assume they will do well with it. Do not let them assume they are smart and can handle it. I have, in the past year, had people not properly use modern systems because they didn't get even pocket training. 

Battery life is very likely lower than a full night of operations. Not sure why, but scopes tend to suck power more than similar monocular/binocular units. Turn it off when not in use. 


Half Measure Solutions

So the obvious answer is that we want to combine day and night sights. How do we do that? Well, NODs are small? Can we mount them to the gun, and get a day/night scope system? Sorta. 

If you put the NOD in front of the scope, it suffers POI changes. You can try to get regular mounting and adjust, but you can also just mount it behind. 

I did this for a while with the GGG Multiflex mount as shown above. It was a slick-seeming solution but especially to get the magnifier on to simulate an actual scope, and make it worth doing, it requires setting up the day optic rather far forward, or your neck is craned. In the end, I found that it was not especially effective, and even with the 3x magnifier, was inferior to other options, mostly ended up keeping NODs on my head and using lasers. 


For my precision rifle I also tried something similar. You can (and I don't seem to have any photos of this) get adapters specifically for this, or simply a rubber pipe junction, and clamp a night vision monocular behind the objective of a riflescope. 

It lines up well enough, the rubber provides some recoil mitigation to the NOD, and then you get night vision through the day scope. 

Works surprisingly well, until you pull the trigger. It does shove the occular back a few inches so can be hard to get behind the scope, but on a chassis like mine with a quick adjust buttstock, less of an issue. But it is easy to crawl the scope, and then it bangs you in the face. 

Good to know for emergencies and more austere environments, but not awesome. 


Clip Ons

Someone else will know the full history and hopefully can bring us up to speed, but the clip on is the real answer to the day/night scope. It's a clever concept of sticking a night optic in front of the day scope, BUT, the night optic is configured in ways way past my understanding of optics to not change POI. 

It helps to mount it very, very repeatably, but it works! 

The clipon is a unit power device, but it is configured for scope use. Often, they are flat unusable clipped in front of an RDS; you have to have magnification to see a good image. And yes, when you zoom, you aren't magically zooming the clipon, but zooming into the image that it puts out. That limits the magnification, but they are generally set up for the most likely zoom rate, so are razor sharp at say 4x, and can go higher with only some loss of image quality. This is however not unlike "digital zoom" where there's no free lunch, and image quality does degrade. 


The first real clipon I know of was the Simrad. These by the way are a great deal, as they are the gateway drug for many a night precision rifle guy so come up for sale in the range of $1500 still. They are early 2000s era devices, that clipped straight to the front of the day scope (well, there's a mount you bolt on). I have never owned one, only lightly fussed with one ever. They look like this when mounted.

But no, that's not an illuminator sticking up. It's just a huge lens and mirror assembly. Good light gathering, if weird to attach, and top heavy. Especially if tripod mounting the rifle, a legit choice for a discount.


What really changed all of this was rails. Long rails. Now, you can put the same type of optical system, on the rail. 

See, isn't that better? Note that alignment is not perfect and... doesn't have to be. Another miracle of the system. 


I have played with a couple more, too little to give solid input on them, but have owned two clipons. 

Armasight CO-MR — I sold the PVS-300, the PAS-19 and some other stuff, to get a clipon. Thought about SIMRAD, but ended up with this. Better than expected. 

For example, NO change in POI I can find. Clipons are not supposed to have any, but in reality it's a small and repeatable amount. Mine? None.

Resolution and brightness good enoug I can discriminate for, aim at, and hit a head on an IDPA cardboard at 300. Now, it's grainy enough groups open up a bit, but that's not bad. 

Other long tedious notes: 
- The power switch is the same diameter and has pull safety exactly like many mil issue items, such as PVS 7, 14. Effective, good detents and familiar, in a good location. 
- No power up time, no noise, etc.
- Does not blow out from muzzle flash. White light for a moment, but no burn in/fade out time. 
- No lights! The battery indicator is under a cover. Too many consumer night vision things have lights to say they are on, etc.
-I first used it with a clamp-to-scope mount. I still have it actually. It's...fine. But do the pic rail if you can. 
- Picatinny mount. Meh. A knockoff and it shows. Mounts matter and whether reliable or just RTZ, not trusting this one.
- Rubber cups to help integrate with scopes (on rail mounting) are too involved. The unit works well a few mm from a scope or RDS, but these always force you to mount it 1-2" forward. They need softer or wider ones to avoid this. On a 10.5" carbine, I want it back further to keep muzzle blast off the glass.
- Lens cover. Nicely integrated, nice it uses elastic so you can replace or tighten, but it does take a bit to figure out how to stow it so it doesn't get in the way. 
- Glares in bright light. Not flares or blowoutslike the gen1-cascades, but something in the optical path picks up bright lights just outside the field of view and they bounce around and throw odd, large lens flares. Needs a sunshade or killflash. Which, is unavailable. 
- Focus lever. Weird lever vs knob with far too little range and detents. So, hard to get to exactly where you want due to the small throw, then impossible to get exactly right due to detents. I think it may also move under recoil. 
- Gain dial. I love having it, good range if a bit dim (high end should be very bright) but it's almost useless as its on the front of that long tube on the left side. On a carbine, hard to reach. On a precision rifle, literally impossible from the firing position. So you dial a gain change, then move and look through the scope. Ick. I regret spending the money on this extra feature but have not used autogain ones so no idea how well they work on this model.

It IS... whatever it is. Former combloc,  consumer/hunter oriented. Some non-coated threads inside, some exposed wires, some sketchy looking bits here and there generally. Not military grade, not entirely all-wx trustworthy, all the former mil guy promoters on their blog and shooting team aside. 

300 yds

(It is my impression that not just ATN but Pulsar and others are in this ballpark. You can get good optics, great images, but... the whole package is a bit lacking. Still, as with many things, good if that's what you can afford and you do not fool yourself, so treat it right). 


PVS-30 — When I became aware of the discount surplus refurbed PVS30s for half price (still $5000) I sold the Armasight, some other scopes and stuff, and begged the wife for a space $1500, and bought one. 

Mine has a stunning tube, but is disappointingly dented on the objective housing so I cannot screw the killflash in. Yeah, I'm a nerd, I found the rare killflash. 

LOTS of discussion of it, here:

Short version: 

While up to 10 x is the best performance, I can use it up to 16x on my Steiner scope. I have even used it on the spotter, up to 28x. That lets me read street signs 430 yards (LRF) away. You can not quite tell when the stopsign was put up by the sticker on the back, but can see the sticker and tell it has holes and printing on it.

Amazing light gathering. One time I recorded 15% moon, with no lights anywhere nearby. Set on a raked white gravel field I had to use a light to find my gun after I went down to reset targets. So all but pitch black and I had to turn the gain up to about halfway to see the targets.

Generally, an amazing scope, and an amazing system. I have clipped it to things like my .300 carbine with 4x magnifier to good effect. It is very much what it is supposed to be, an all-in-one solution. 

It's hard to imagine wanting anything better so definitely do not show me anything better than this.  

300 yards. A few years later than the Armasight, though the same range. Less light, and see the target under #9? Clear as day. And... better with eyes than photos. I was mostly shooting at the target between 4 and 5, accurately. 



Observation with Clipons: 

I started this with the CO-MR, but it has really come into it's own with the PVS30. 

There have previously been clever day/night systems for observation like the (hideously expensive) night vision eyepieces for the Fuji Stabiscope. But clipons allow you do neat things with existing gear and some fairly simple adapters. Some of these are for sale, or included in the Army issue Leupold spotter kit.  

I myself have hacked together a set of adapters, like the one above (since improved) to allow me to use the clipon with an 8x monocular as a handheld, or with spotter on a tripod, and even clip on a laser to designate targets. 

ARCA Swiss is the key to much of this, and I have put together an improved version of the above rail for probably $35 so it's more about knowing what you want, and a little ability to bolt things together than money. 


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Not mine, from another forum, an excellent example of what I often encounter on thermals: 

Really good image quality, can make out details of the targets downrange, so much as to tell which 2x4s are on top of which others, maybe even nails/screws. 

But the dog is a white silhouette. I blame auto-contrast control, setting the overall scene to look even, in a consumer camera manner. Back in my cooled/mechanical thermal days we had separate dials for gain and brightness, and once a target was found, you could adjust to see details on them; used in the field to find not just "a person" but ID them from their weapon, web gear, etc. With a 160 line system no less.

Anyone with time on good, modern, thermals (Runningwolf?) who can talk of how PID works on modern thermal? Are there some with different auto-contrast settings, or manual dials still or something? 

Sorry, still jet lagged and it hit me hard last night so racked out early.

So my experience is with the PAS-13 family (V1, V2, and V3) and a tiny bit of time with the Trijicon units and FLIR Breach IR. I’m not gonna go into the capabilities to PID with the PAS-13 more then to say yes, you can, fairly well. This will be more in the use of thermals.

PAS-13, these our the issued thermals in my unit. Supposedly the idea is V1s on M4s, V2s on SAW, and V3 on the 240. Thermals on the belt feds work ok as those weapons (240 mainly) tend to be more stationary. I don’t care for mounting any of the PAS-13 onto a M4. There’s only really two ways to do it, you remove your optic, or if you have a red dot, you take your PEQ off and mount it on the side of the rail and your RDS mounted on the top rail next to the FSB. Some guys do this, but then have to move there CCO back to the normal mounting place for turn in. It’s basically just asking for a unzeroed weapon. Also, the PAS requires you to shove your eye right up against the unit, this can be annoying with eye pro, also extremely slow to take aim and fire. For those reason I prefer our thermals either handheld, or mounted on one of our more stationary belt fed weapons. They are also heavy and eat batteries. They do make for invaluable observation devices though and combined with a CLU are awesome.

The Trijicon units, I have very little time with them but the one I played with (I believe the SnipeIR) I liked. No idea on long term reliabilty but it’s a unit I could see mounted in my rifle. Kinda like a thermal LPVO, and eye relief was so I didn’t have to plant my face into the optic. I’ve heard reliabilty can be iffy with them but if the bugs are ever hammered out I’d own one.

FLIR Breach IR. This thing is basically like a thermal PVS-14. Makes for a small, light weight handheld or even head mounted thermal unit. Tracking and image quality was good on it and it’s slightly smaller then a 14. Rep quoted me $1700-$1800. That’s a steal for thermal, doesn’t have aiming capabilities like a scope but you can record picture and video in it. I thought it was neat at-least. 


runningwolf posted:

FLIR Breach IR. This thing is basically like a thermal PVS-14. Makes for a small, light weight handheld or even head mounted thermal unit. Tracking and image quality was good on it and it’s slightly smaller then a 14. Rep quoted me $1700-$1800. That’s a steal for thermal, doesn’t have aiming capabilities like a scope but you can record picture and video in it. I thought it was neat at-least. 

I have also looked through some other devices like the Patrol IR and spent a couple minutes on the Breach. That makes the PVS14 look huge and gangly. Tiny, featherweight unit with quite good performance it seems. 

Tiny, capable, head-mountable ones seem to be the coming thing. The TILO makes me even more excited, as it's even tinier, is a 640x480 core now, and is even (sort of) a clipon.

(magnifier is on here, the ligher green unit is the thermal).

This is why I am thinking of waiting a year or three before I buy my next thermal. Maybe I can get a tiny head OR rail cliponable device that isn't $8,000. And is sold in the US.

runningwolf posted:

Also, the PAS requires you to shove your eye right up against the unit, this can be annoying with eye pro, also extremely slow to take aim and fire.

Forgot to mention eyecups in my scope post. A LOT of issue scopes (in the West) have not just serious rubber eyecups, but the style where you have to push against it to open a shutter so no light escapes when you aren't looking through it. 

Clever enough except... pretty annoying. Takes a bit of force, and varies with weather. In the cold, can be nearly impossible. They can stick (e.g. ice up... you breathe on them, they get rained on) and so forth. 

Many of these eyecups are not just push fit also, so if removing one to replace, repair, shitcan, do not get the prybar, but look close. Many are bonded to an aluminum ring which threads onto the unit. Careful with the threading, as often this is threaded into the diopter adjustment and over-twisting can on some devices over-exert on the diopter adjustment, binding or breaking it. 

Partly from other convos I am having, hit up some of the reputable surplus dealers, and Murphy still has some tedious stuff (careful: cooled thermal with no tanks is useless!) but also these which may be of interest: 

AN/PAS-13B (V3) TESTED, GOOD COND.  runs on  6 vdc  2 amps $2150 ea. with 2 lith rechargeable batteries and charger  kit.

Power is one thing that made me get rid of the PAS19, so two batteries and a charger is a decent deal alright. They are big, if for things like stationary shooting/observation hunting, may be a good way to break into the field cheaper than the 2-8x the price similar-performance new stuff costs. 

Briefcase is a 4 cell charger and tester. And who doesn't want a whole briefcase just to /support/ your thermal  

Looking for something else, ran across this photo. This is what Diz calls "raccoon eye" but is just the splash from the NODs without a rubber eye cup. 

A bit exaggerated from the photo — I have never once found anyone because of splash — if you were really close, or it was really dark such as indoors stuff,... you can imagine a bad guy seeing it, can't you? 


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