Basics of Night Vision Mounting

A good few folks had questions about what all the nomenclature is with regards NV kit and I know I was the exact same before I did a ton of digging around to learn what it all means. So I’ve put together a succinct little guide to the naming of all the bits you’ll need to actually attach common NVDs to a helmet in a manner that’ll be efficient for any activity where you’re using a firearm or replica.

I’m fairly certain this will answer a lot of the questions folks have in this specific area of NV gear. I’ve not gone in to the night vision itself or helmet setups as those are different topics for other posts/videos, I’ve just focused on the interfacing parts between a helmet and the NV and I reckon this will clear things up for those who are interested in purchasing this gear themselves.

Custom Cut Desert Night Parka

If you enjoyed yesterday’s post then hopefully there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy today’s even more.

At the same time I had the Woodland BDU shirt modified I also sent off my old Desert Night pattern parka. These things have obviously been pretty hipster-popular in tacticool circles in recent years, but for those who don’t know the origins, the pattern was designed in the US way back around the mid 70s/early 80s as an attempted counter to enemy (Soviet) Night Vision, hence the unusual grid based pattern. I’ve not been able to find any information on whether it had any effect on very early and primitive Russian NVDs, but all reports suggest that even the hand-me-down equipment the Iraqis were in possession of was more than adequate to make this camouflage irrelevant come the early 90s when the American military deployed it in the first Gulf war.

The actual uniform produced consisted of an over-jacket and over-trousers, the idea being of course that the desert can get bloody cold at night comparatively speaking, so you put an extra layer on over your BDUs and, theoretically, also defeat enemy NV in the process. The parka in stock form is incredibly long and over-sized to account for layering underneath, alongside the fact that it is supplied with an insulating liner. It is also designed for the rear ‘tail’ to tuck between the wearer’s legs and be tied to the front vaguely like a para smock so there are features to facilitate that. Whether the idea of that was to keep out sand/wind or something else I’m unsure as it all seems entirely unnecessary and impractical when you actually put the thing on.

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In order to make the parka more practical overall and generally more in keeping with modern ideas, I had the following changes made:

-Lower hem raised by a good 12″ or so and changed from the previous angular cut to a straight and level one. Old cotton draw strings replaced with elastic with toggles on either side to set and hold adjustments.

-The old cuffs were far too wide with no adjustment and flapped around. In fact they could easily just slide right over the hand. Para smock style knit type cuffs were added to create a comfortable fit that ensures the cuff stays in the correct place around the wrist. Wind will also have less opportunity to sneak its’ way in.

-Proper cotton canvas pockets added behind the slots that previously were nothing other than pass-throughs to the BDU pockets that would have been worn underneath. This means the parka can now be worn independently regardless of any under layers and now has storage of its’ own.

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-Old BDU style button front closure replaced with a YKK zip and velcro similar to PCS shirts and smocks. There’s also a press stud added at the very base of the zip. Overall this arrangement sits flatter and makes it simply far faster and much less of a chore to don and doff the parka.

-Material cut from the hem was used to add upper arm pockets in modern ACU/PCS style with the expected loop fields for patches and the like. Both the colour and surface area of the loop are generally a bit more in keeping with the old school theme.

-Again using excess material (and a small section of elastic) a keeper has been added to the centre of the upper back to allow the hood to be rolled in similar fashion to British issued smocks of the past decade or so.

-The inner polyester liner (which is basically a US poncho liner with more shape) has been shortened in line with the hem of the parka, with the appropriate buttons and loops moved and adjusted accordingly so that it can be buttoned inside the parka in the same manner as it could be before any of the work was carried out.

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Could more be done? Sure you could really go at it with tons more pockets everywhere, pit zips, more velcro and a dozen other features, but to be honest just shortening the thing and adding the cuffs really makes a massive difference.

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The internal label may say 50/50 cotton/nylon though to be honest I’m not convinced this isn’t an entirely cotton jacket as it frays exactly like cotton, all the draw strings burned as as a natural fibre would etc, though it may just be down to the manufacture and weave of the fabric back in the 80s. Either way this jacket isn’t going to be much use in a country like England where you’re going to probably get rain if the temperatures are low, which is realistically true of issue smocks anyway. But then again this parka was designed for the cold and dry desert so I can’t knock it for that and it actually makes a lot of sense in context. It certainly cuts a decent amount of wind chill and the puffy liner is very warm, so for the times it’s cold but without rain or snow it’ll do nicely all things considered. In fact without the liner in, it could be worn in a good range of temperatures since the main fabric isn’t too excessively thick or heavy.

If you want to see the matching G3 cut lower halves, then be sure to stay tuned.

True RAID Mod

Something I’ve been waiting to post for a while, because it’s a piece that is easily one of my favourites despite its’ simplicity and well aged design.

This is a RAID mod shirt in the true sense for me personally, as I bought it in standard BDU form then sent it off to a tailor and chose the specifics of the alterations myself, in the classic method.

For those unfamiliar, you can read my article on ITS Tactical where I touch on the topic of RAID modding for shirts and the history thereof, but the jist is that guys have been taking the pockets off the front of their uniforms and having them sewn on to the upper arms since at least WW2. Whether it was parachute harnesses back in the 40s or common body armour after that, there has been gear blocking access to torso mounted pockets for a long time, yet standard issue uniforms did not adapt, so having your shirt pockets on the sleeve instead of the torso just made sense. The practice ended within the US Army of course when they moved over from the BDU in Woodland/Tri-Color Desert over to the ACU in Universal Camouflage Pattern, since ACUs feature sleeve pockets as standard with the only torso pockets being on the chest and no more pockets on the lower abdomen.

My particular RAID shirt started life as a totally plain jane, 100% standard issue ‘Hot Weather’ coat in 50/50 NYCO Woodland, which originally had a US Air Force service designation tape sewn above one of the upper pockets. This was clearly someone’s barrack wear shirt for a long time as it was fairly thoroughly faded and broken in by the time I got hold of it. The pictures below demonstrate this pretty clearly in the areas where the sleeve cuff is tightened and the lack of sun bleaching of fabric where the lower pockets used to be.

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The modifications I had done include the following:

-Upper/chest pockets removed and relocated to the upper arms with a cant to allow easier access across the body. Closure method changed from buttons to velcro. Loop fields for patches added to the exterior of the pocket bodies and closure flaps, similar to Crye’s Army Custom cut.

-Lower/abdomen pockets removed and relocated to the chest. Placed at an angle to again allow easy access across the body, though I opted not to go for horizontal mounting as contents can too easily fall out when the flap is opened. Closure method is again velcro instead of buttons.

-The previously inaccessible storage area created by the double-layering of fabric on the elbows has been made accessible by the addition of slits with velcro closure at the top of each pocket. Padding can now be added to the elbow areas if desired.

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The main closure down the front of the shirt is still the original buttons. I also didn’t opt for a ‘Mandarin’ collar by adding velcro to it, as I tend to find that simply fastening the very top button and popping up the collar provides plenty adequate neck protection from the sun and the rub of slings or shoulder straps. In service for barrack wear the BDU shirt was worn with the top folded/ironed open in a dress shirt style, much the same as CS95, but fastening all the buttons is certainly the superior method for most practical wear in the field.

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While the individual who carried out work for me certainly did so to a high standard overall, they sadly are no longer in the business of tactical tailoring. Truth be told, even if they were, I would have to refrain from recommending them as multiple promised deadlines were missed and communication was extremely spotty at best. There was a point I was rather worried I’d not see my items again though luckily it did not come to that. It’s a shame that people who posses both the sewing skills and understanding of military uniforms necessary to create such pieces are like hens’ teeth these days, as this particular shirt is definitely one of the coolest looking in my possession. It may not be the most feature rich but it comes very close to a modern, commercial Field cut shirt in function and has an awful lot more character on account of the wear and custom modification.

 

The End of Salomon Blues

The actual end of the trail for my patronage of Salomon. If you missed my earlier post that sums up my whole experience with the brand you’re going to need to read that lest your brand loyalty potentially flares up (if you’re that way inclined, which hopefully most folks are objective and logical enough not to be) – http://thefull9.net/salomon-blues/

When I look over these rather old 3D Mid GTXs, I can’t help but be reminded of Merrell. They made/make a fairly similar line of footwear, they gained popularity in the military and subsequently amongst the community of folks who use guns and replicas thereof for a variety of pursuits. Then they got REALLY popular, became victims of their own success and quality throughout the line suffered drastically. I read dozens of reports from people discussing how their old pairs of Sawtooth shoes had lasted them years of use, then after a certain point each pair would only serve a couple of months before breaking down. Going through the exact same ordeals and wear processes.

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As I’ve said in various places in the past, I’m never about trying to discount peoples’ positive experiences and I get the Quest 4D boot line has done a lot of folks very well. Passive Shooter has a couple of pairs that I’ve personally witnessed him get huge amounts of use from and had very good things to say, but unfortunately my own experiences going through a good few pairs have not been that positive by any stretch.

I picked up this pair of XA Pros second hand online from a seller with whom I happened to have some store credit accrued. They came up in my size for not much money, I knew the tab on the rear meant they were of older production and that for general outdoor activities, especially airsoft, I do tend to prefer a much lower cut boot than anything the military issues. Since I already had the regular style Mids to wear occasionally in warm weather, a lightweight shoe with the Gore-Tex lining was a logical addition to my range of options. They ticked all the right boxes for being out in the winter, be it just walking or weekend games. As per usual bear in mind this is all thinking that happened about 2 years ago and I hadn’t yet quite given up on the brand – even after a couple of pairs failed miserably I was determined to give it at least another shot or two purely on the back of the rabid worldwide popularity. In retrospect I personally wish I’d cut my losses sooner.

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This particular pair are simply more rigid (in the right way) and durable to both a visual and tactile inspection compared to my newer Mids. The materials used throughout the upper have lasted far, far better than my newer production equivalents, to quite an extreme degree in fact. Also the soles do not suffer the pathetic paper-thin feel that I mentioned plagued my other Mids in the previous blog. These old boots are just better made, simple as that, hence my analogy to the plight of Merrell. As is so often the case this is a sample size of one and I am always cognisant of that fact, but I can only call the shots as I see them fall.

Arc’teryx LEAF Khyber 50 – Initial Thoughts

Arc’teryx Khyber 50 in Wolf. Quite a feat of engineering.

I’m not going to even attempt to review this pack because the only reasonable way to do so would be after spending many days hiking with it at the minimum and I didn’t join the air force to not spend my time in cushy hotels. In future however if I do embark on any sort of adventurous training (AT) through work this will likely be the bag I end up using. There are in depth reviews already published online though at this point the bag is long out of production and only going to be available through classifieds and other personal sales. The replacement products now offered on the LEAF site are the Assault, Khard and Drypack lines and there are no 50 litre options, just bracketing bags in the form of the Assault 45 and Khard 60. All are distinctly lid-less and follow the clam shell design philosophy, which it has to be said does become very appealing after you’ve spent enough time fishing for things in the bottom of a large bag, trying to hold other gear out of the way with one hand and searching with the other before eventually unloading it all in frustration.

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Gear Whores Anonymous was kind enough to post on Instagram about the pretty crazy clearance sale that was running on these things over at LA Police Gear back in late 16, down from something like $500+ to sub $200. Grey, Croc and Multicam were on offer but I knew the size was inbetween what I’d need for any work purposes so I steered clear of the MC and Grey of course is far more palatable for urban usage than a shade of coyote brown. 50L on the other hand is just about small enough to be reasonable to transport on a train or throw in a car boot with other people’s bags to accommodate perhaps a few days in the woods (if you pack conservatively, climate dependant of course) or maybe a week in the city. Though obviously there’s many caveats to both of those.

A lot of duffels and the issue black deployment bag, for example, may have more raw capacity but if you’re envisaging carrying your belongings any distance then the backpack format is of course the preference. I often see people on the London underground in full hiking gear with bags at least this size and I’m never quite sure why, but I imagine if you’re perhaps moving from one hostel to the next on the minimum possible budget and carrying all your clothes for a multi-week trip then again the pack format will be a lot more practical than a suitcase or duffel.

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I have other packs in the 30L range that are also not tactically-coloured in any way and great for international flights, weekends away etc. But before owning this bag I had nothing above 35L and the Khyber gives me the option to carry a good quantity of stuff in a pack that features no external PALS loops or velcro fields and is entirely unobtrusive in terms of colour. In terms of construction and features I’ll just say this pack feels more like it was built architecturally than sewn, even with the 2 included frame bars removed there is zero sag or bend when stood up. The back and the shoulder straps in particular are the most sculpted pieces of sewing work I’ve ever seen on any piece of gear. They almost give an impression of being unforgiving and overly stiffened but again this is something that can only be determined through a good amount of use.

Aimpoint Micro – King of the Hill

Just my Aimpoint AB T-1 operating in the very toughest of suburban environments.

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There is really nothing I’m able to say to endorse this optic that hasn’t already been said in the many years it has already been on the market and in usage all over the world in a myriad of applications. These things have seen untold amounts of military usage for many years now and there’s already a plethora of torture test videos out there showing just how ridiculously durable the T-1 is. The most impressive part of the durability of this red dot sight is not just purely how rugged it is though, because generally less weight = less durability, yet a T-1 with no mount weighs a paltry 84 grams and that’s essentially nothing. In fact without getting very vulgar it’s hard to find the words to describe how close to nothing it really weighs and yet can still survive things that would kill off the vast majority of other firearm/tactical equipment.

Pop in a fresh battery and it will run for 50000 hours (~5 years) on visible setting 8. Leave it on setting 2 (NVG/IR visible only) and Aimpoint reckons you’ll still see a dot through your Night Vision after more than half a million hours of continuously being on i.e. over half a century, though I’d imagine the battery itself would expire long before then simple through age. Try something similar with a cheap clone and you’ll have a dead battery in about 2 days most likely, if that.

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The spec sheet also states the device has an operation range going from -41 degrees celsius to 71 degrees. Even the hottest days in the hottest parts of Afghanistan only reach around 50 degrees and if you’re trying to shoot at someone in lower than -30C… well design dependant I’d be surprised if even your firearm and/or ammunition continue to function reliably or indeed at all.

I originally had intended to stick purely to the likes of Primary Arms, Vortex and Holosun for airsoft usage since they can all happily withstand use on recoiling replicas whereas Chinese clones often don’t. I’d also use an IR laser if I happened to be playing the game at night using NV so the H-1 would be the more economical choice, however when this device came up for sale for not very much more than a Vortex equivalent I had to jump on it. Obviously anyone would be sceptical initially at that price but I’ve tested the IR modes and they all work and the build quality is evident in the flesh, so if this is a fake it’s the best fake I’ve ever seen and I don’t know why the market wouldn’t be flooded and paranoid over these incredibly realistic imitations.

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In typical fashion I’m yet to purchase a mount for this optic but the plan is to go with the Geissele Automatics, LLC to create an all around nigh-indestructible package that I can use for shooting sports in future if I take up something like practical shotgun (or indeed emigrate).

Husar EXO Combat Pants – PenCott Camo

As some may know, although I’ve bought a fair few pieces from Crye in recent years I spent even longer before that trying to collect all the quality alternatives that I could find around the world. The prime example would probably be the Mk2 Tac Dax from Plat-A-Tac (mix of AC and G3) but during that period I also gained an interest in the PenCott Camouflage family and began looking for a quality set of uniforms with modern features.

My search ended up at these EXO combat trousers from Husar, which were not a part of their 1st team line-up, as it were, even at the time and I’m not sure if they’re even producing clothing at all at this point, especially given their strong leanings towards the load bearing side of the house. That said I would not be at all displeased to see them get more in to the apparel realm as I’m overall quite pleased with the EXOs.

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They’re something of a blend of a Crye G3 and UF-Pro Striker XT with some hints of older Level 9 PCU contract gear in the form of the slanted pocket lids. The construction is all 50/50 NYCO (no stretch) and there are 500D cordura panels sewn over 3 key areas; namely the seat, kneepad pockets and the insides of the ankles. For me the kneepads are the key reinforcement point but the seat and ankles would come a close 2nd and 3rd without a doubt. Overall of course with the addition of cordura and removal of stretch nylon you are gaining some weight and losing out a touch on the flexibility front, but the durability is most certainly present from a construction perspective.

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Present and accounted for are the adjustable/padded waistband, wide and heavy duty belt loops, adjustable knee pad height, full compatibility with Crye combat pads, a total of 10 pockets, zip and velcro fly, velcro cuffs on the ankle and behind the knee and a partridge in a pear tree. More interesting and unique features include the no-metal/spring cord lock for the knee pad height adjustment as well as the integrated ties that protrude from the rear of the main cargo pocket and can be wrapped around the thigh to really clamp things in place, particularly larger gear that might be carried within said pockets. Don’t go too tight of course as you don’t want a chronically thin tourniquet around that part of your leg.

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For those who like equipment security you’d also be well advised to enquire after the EXO combat trousers as, as notable from the close up of the open pocket, there is an actual ton of velcro square footage to keep that pocket closed and that is a theme throughout the trouser. There is of course also the pair of zipped pockets on the glute region a lá G3s.

Definitely an intriguing Eastern European twist on the New York formula and certainly one I’m pleased to both have in the collection and be able to discuss here.

OPS CORE Counterweight

Something of an irony – to best compliment what is probably the most complex and expensive piece of equipment you might have on your person, you are likely going to want to add something that is comparatively very cheap and could have largely been manufactured thousands of years ago.

Being quite obsessive with lightweight gear and having been in that mindset for a number of years it was a bit of a wrench to force myself to purchase the Gentex Corporation/OPS CORE Counterweight from ODIN Tactical. However having tried out my PVS-14 both with and without any counterbalance it is very clear that having the counterweight is the superior option. It certainly felt very counterproductive to do something deliberately that is known to be the inferior way of doing said thing, but in the long run it does give you a reassurance with regard to the superior method. It can also help to somewhat ease the sting in the wallet region when you have to outlay on a piece of gear.

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The OC Counterweight is a mixture of primarily cordura and hypalon with internal elastic loops (burly elastic at that) and an awful lot of Velcro brand hook and loop. The supplied weight blocks are 70g each with a thick coating and are presumably made of lead given their size to mass ratio. Each block can of course be replaced with more useful items like batteries so that you’re actually getting some potential benefit out of having all that mass added to your head gear. Though the key aspect really is that without having any of that weight at the back of a helmet you’ll have to really crank on your headband adjustment in order to keep the whole helmet stable with NV mounted and that is just not comfortable by comparison to the alternative.

The pouch itself has a window cut on the front for a miniature cyalume to shine through if required (think of a ghetto alternative to an S&S Manta) as well as loop on the outside for a small square of glint tape. Whatever you choose to store inside the pouch is secured with a heavy dose of one-wrap style hook and loop.

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There are 2 methods for mounting the counterweight. First the hook on the rear of the pouch and then the extended replacement screws as depicted which go through the helmet shell. If your helmet/cover is of quality and features good, thick-pile loop fields the velcro interface alone will actually serve very reliably and enables much faster changing of colourways by changing helmet covers. I opt to remove the plastic hardware that facilitates the screw mounting and just tuck the hypalon straps away and for most of my purposes the velcro mounting alone is more than secure enough. For military folks deploying/jumping or indeed civilians who need a counterweight on a sky diving helmet, adding in the certainty of the screw mounting will of course be the way to go.

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It’s temping to just not admit this part, but I’ll say it anyway since it’s a rare example – I did actually try a nasty, cheap Chinese made knock-off of this pouch before purchasing the OPS CORE original, however the weighted blocks were made of raw steel and arrived absolutely covered in rust and the pouch itself was badly sewn with poor quality ‘velcro’. It might well have done service for hobby usage if attached using the screw system, but I wasn’t happy with it overall, especially since I wanted the ability to quickly tear off the counterweight yet still have it securely retained by the velcro alone. Years ago I’d sometimes succumb to the allure of cheap clones when it came to very simple gear items like this which fulfil an incredibly basic function, but personally it’s burnt me too many times to ever forget my lessons learned.

A more featured, modern alternative option to consider would be something like the TNVC, Inc Mohawk OEM’d by Spiritus Systems. The Mk3 Mohawk is optimal for NVGs running a battery box and for a PVS setup like mine the Mk1 would be a great choice (if your helmet/cover has the right loop fields to match up of course).