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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ramblings on getting Night Vision Gear (2nd or 3rd gen)...

Howdy Folks,

For those of us who had the honor to serve in the military and got the chance to use the latest and greatest Night Vision Gear (NVG) it is very hard to forget how awesome they were.

When I completed my tour of duty, I missed three things... my M-16, my 155mm howitzer and my NVG goggles. An AR-15 makes a nice replacement for the M-16, and .50 caliber black powder rifle will make almost as much noise/smoke/smell as a 155mm howitzer, but nothing other than a set of the current set of NVG goggles will replace what you had in the military!

My first attempt at purchasing Night Vision was a set of Russian 3x magnification night vision binoculars. These pair run me over $600 and I thought I was satisfied until I went to visit my friend White Wolf over in TN. WW had a sweet set of 3rd generation PVS-7B goggles (one tube, but 2 eyepieces). It was then I realized that my russkie set was no match for those ITT PVS-7B.

There is only one problem with buying 3rd generation Night Vision equipment and that is finding the money to purchase them. A good pair of NVG's will run you over $3000... ouch! Are they worth it? Yes, I believe so... but ONLY after you have stored up enough food for a year, medical supplies, a piece of land of your own, dependable transportation, debts paid off, a roof above your head, and so on... Yes they are worth it, but not if you do not have all your other bases covered!!!

A good second choice is 2nd generation or 2nd generation + gear (higher end 2nd gen stuff more like 2.5 gen), which run around the $2000 mark.

All night vision works similar. They take available light and amplify it to produce an image that gives us a way to see in the dark.

All night vision requires light to work. That is why your $200 walmart specials usually will work exceptionally well when you use the IR (infra-red light invisible to the human eye, but not night vision gear) illuminator, but NEVER EVER NEVER use this to judge night vision gear! It is what night vision does with the AVAILABLE light that makes them expensive and worth the $$$.

Let me cover the DANGER of using the IR illuminator in a TACTICAL situation. First of all think of this analogy. A submarine has two types of sonar, active and passive. The submarines best defense is how quiet it is. When it is quiet, no one can locate where it is and the sub remains hidden and undetected. To locate enemy and friendly ships it uses PASSIVE sonar which allows the sub to catalog. identify, and track the tangos. Sometimes it is necessary to use active sonar which it sends out a sound wave (PING) to give it information on a target. They do not use active sonar much because while it will 'paint' the best picture, it also lets everyone else know (including the target they are pinging) where they are at!

So your night vision uses PASSIVE light (moonlight,starlight, streetlight) to help you see what is around . When there is a full moon even the cheap 1st gen NVG will work decent, but on a cloudy night deep in the woods you find out that cheap gear starts to show its true nature. When there is not enough PASSIVE light then the NVG needs an external ACTIVE light source such as an IR(infra-red) illuminator to allow you to see.

Here is where it gets interesting... with an IR illuminator (these are usually IR LED's) ACTIVE, folks with other Night Vision Gear can see you! Even the cheap models will allow you to see someone using an IR. So the reason you want 2+ or 3 gen NVG is so you will not need to use that IR often. There are some cheap units that have the IR's on all the time to allow you night vision. These work the same as low light CCTV systems with a lens surrounded by a ring of IR LED's.

These IR LED's are invisible to the naked eye, but I have found that looking at them head on I can see a faint red glow. Not usually a problem...

ACTIVE IR lighting is not a bad thing unless you are wishing to remain stealth. For viewing wildlife and walking through the woods without a flashlight they are great. However when going up against bad guys who may have night vision, you don't want to be running around with an IR on... trust me!!!

OK enough of the technical mumbo jumbo...

Now granted these pics are not perfect as they were taken with a camera phone (the lower resolution ones) and a point and shoot held up to one side of the PVS-7D.

The Woodshed.

Stars through the clouds.

Shep on the trail.

Garden area, notice the sky and the light from a town 30 miles away.

Horse shed, night light and porch lights

Another view of garden area.

Moon rise and house lights on.

Same as last pic but lights off.

I hope that you enjoyed the pics and the posts. You can be perfectly happy with 1st generation night vision. I just want folks to understand the limitations though. If you use your IR, you might as well have a flashlight in your hand if others have night vision as well.

Thanks for reading!


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