So yes, a while back I jumped in to the night vision arena, which was a fairly expensive jump as you’d imagine. The ‘hardest’ part was actually listening to my own years of learning in the sense that buying the cheap option to begin with will never satisfy me, knowing there’s something better available and seeing other people with that better thing. I think just about everybody who’s not a millionaire starts with more budget gear then gradually works up over time. Not everyone wants or needs to eventually buy the most gucci and expensive option of course, but I think many of you will be familiar with a wastage of money through buying something cheaper to start with, only to then sell it at a loss and replace it with the superior product. Be it a uniform set, belt, helmet, whatever.
Trying to learn from one’s own mistakes and apply that learning to something like gloves or a shirt for example is not comparatively all that painful. Applying that learning to night vision however is one of those occasions where you take a hard gulp, pay the money and sit back in your chair for a minute afterwards to process what you just did. Problem is the unit itself is just the start, because the rest of the things you’ll need in order to use that unit really securely are going to tot up to yet another pretty fat stack of cash.
“Surely dual tubes are the top of the line?” some would ask, but after seeing Bryan’s ITS Tactical interview with John Lovell of Warrior Poet Society some time ago, I decided saving myself a couple grand and taking John’s advice was the way to go. There’s a ton of ex-SF guys in the states making videos and offering training of course and I’m sure we all subscribe to at least a few on YouTube, but listening to John talk about NV use on deployment with a clear depth of genuine experience and his general down to earth persona (certainly compared to a lot of guys in that same arena who want you to #crusheverything) I just got a good vibe overall. I’m picky on who I’ll take advice from, but in this instance I decided to listen up.
The key piece of info in the aforementioned interview was the fact that you’ve always got instant access to your normal vision through 1 eye with a single tube setup and the reality is you’re very unlikely to spend your entire time in the pitch black. You will move through different light conditions, someone might well hit you with white light that negates the NV entirely and as anyone who’s used NV will know, the technology can’t focus like a human eye. So if some bad stuff happens in bad stuff proximity there’s real value in being able to instantly switch to at least one eye of regular vision, or maybe you just have the NV focus set out to the far distance and you need to do some gear admin on yourself or weapon. There’s lots of other reasons too, but the single vs dual tube thing could easily be its’ own book and I am very far from a world expert. Another big takeaway from the interview is that absolutely every piece of NV gear has distinct ups and downs, which made for very honest discussion and of course applies to everything I just said above. Check out the video if you want to learn some really solid foundational stuff on NV use:
So what did I actually pick up?
The unit itself is a PVS-14, which is like the AR of Night Vision with shed tons of after market support. It’s a Gen 3 Omni VII setup with auto-gating, manual gain adjustment and a small built-in IR illuminator. I’ve got a LIF filter on there as well as (crucially) lexan protective discs and daylight-drilled scope covers from Tactical Optician/AM Tactical – AMTAC. The helmet shroud is the skeletal 3-hole type that came on my Ops-Core, with a Wilcox Industries Corp. L4G24 mount and the matching Wilcox J-Arm.
Many people will at this point presumably be wondering what the fuck all that means and believe me when I say it wasn’t that long ago I had no clue either. I spent a good few weeks combing websites, old forum topics, stores and FAQs teaching myself the real basics of what each part of an NV setup actually is, what it does, what I wanted to buy and how it might perform for me. As backwards as it is, I’ll be breaking all those parts down in a future blog that I think will serve as a very handy reference for anyone wanting to buy night vision but who is currently lacking knowledge of the core nomenclature.