Night Vision Explained

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OnPoint Firearms, an online gun retailer, have published an article explaining the different between each generation of nigh vision gear. I learn’t quite a lot from reading it.

It’s true that a sportsman could get by with a $500 system since his primary mission would be spotting fallen cans of Coors Light from a tree stand. However, shooters and survivalists have different needs. They require ruggedness, clarity, and waterproofcicity. I made up that last word, but you get the picture. In an extreme situation, having NVGs can be a huge force multiplier. You can have all the guns and ammo in the world, but you can only carry a little at a time. When the power grid is down, the ability to see at night is unparalleled. Well, situational awareness and training helps, but we’re not selling that today!

They are doing a group buy of NVG and the prices look very good. I have always wanted a decent NVG but there is always a firearm I want more ;)

UPDATE: OnPoint looks to be pulling the plug on their group buy.

UPDATE: The group buy is back on




Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Aurelien

    NVG are a nice tool, but trust me you need a fair amount of training hours to be able to use them. When i got mine, i started by going to the bathroom at night with the goggles on. Might seem stupid, but that’s the way you learn how not to hit things while walking around.

    A few years back i used to go hiking by night with the NVGs on, and drive on small roads without headlights.

  • Chris

    I refuse to take anyone seriously who would use the word “waterproofcicity” instead of the obvious choice “waterproofing.” If he can’t speak basic English and feels the need to brag that he couldn’t come up with an appropriate word, it makes me quite suspicious of his knowledge.

  • ericire12

    I have also heard it explained as this:

    You can clearly make out a deer sized object at…
    Gen 1: 100 yds
    Gen 2: 200 yds
    Gen 3: 300 yds
    Gen 4: 400 yds

  • Clodboy

    “waterproofcicity”

    Heh. Didn’t know that was a word.

    Still, here’s something I’ve been wondering for years: Could an NVG-user be temporarily “blinded” by somebody shining a flare/flashflight in front of their face?
    Is there a cutoff point where the photomultiplier tube gets “saturated” with photons so there is no further amplification, making it no worse than looking at an all-white computer monitor? Or would the NVG amplify an intense light source to the point of damaging the user’s eyes or the tube itself? (and yes, I did watch Stallone’s “Cliffhanger”)

  • Lance

    Looks fun to have one but way too expensive im with you on that one.

  • RC

    It’s true that a sportsman could get by with a $500 system since his primary mission would be spotting fallen cans of Coors Light from a tree stand. However, shooters and survivalists have different needs.

    So, the folks at OnPoint are a bunch of elitist jerks. Got it.

    There are states where night hunting of certain species is legal. Sportsmen who participate in such activities have just as great a need for decent night vision as anyone else. After all, a clearer sight picture makes for better, more humane shots.

    But according to this guy, sportsman are just a bunch of inebriated hicks. No need for ‘em to be all ethical and stuff, I guess. No need for ‘em to buy anything from their store, either.

  • Concerned_Soldier

    Steve,
    Why did you post Chris’s comment. He doesn’t have to read your blog. Please ask him to leave.

    C_S

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Concerned_Soldier, the word he refers to was something I quoted from the linked article.

  • Aurelien

    “You can clearly make out a deer sized object at…
    Gen 1: 100 yds
    Gen 2: 200 yds
    Gen 3: 300 yds
    Gen 4: 400 yds”

    This is technically wrong. That would depend on the definition of your base tube. Civilian and military tubes dont have the same basic definition (lpi, line per inch).

    The difference between the generation is technological, as i own a set of Gen2 military tubes with a much better image than most of the civilian Gen3 models.

    “Still, here’s something I’ve been wondering for years: Could an NVG-user be temporarily “blinded” by somebody shining a flare/flashflight in front of their face?”

    Yes, its a major risk.
    With a gen1 you dont usually get the auto-cutoff so being flashed by visible light can be dangerous.
    Gen 2 and 3 use an auto-cutoff, but you would be temporarily blinded (like when a powerfull light is shwon in your eyes) because the cutoff cant prevent the flashing from happening, its just there to save the tube from failing.
    Gen3 unfilmed (also known as Gen4) is more light-adaptative. You can run around in broad daylight with a Gen3 unfilmed optic without damaging it, and when flashed by visible light at night the tube will take a few seconds to adapt.

    The common military night vision systems use Gen3 unfilmed (US, called ‘gen4′ by civilians) or Gen 2+ (european equivalent to the US Gen3 standard) tubes.

  • http://ww.kimber1911pistols.com Kimber1911Pistols.com

    It is my understanding from some of the major night vision companies that Gen4 isn’t actually real. I believe it is ATN or another brand with sub-par quality calling a Gen 3 tube Gen 4….

    http://www.nightvision.com/thedifference/difference.swf – see myths versus facts – there was a Gen 4 for a while but after the product failed the government recanted the existence of Gen 4.

    From what I’m seeing, it is a filmless Gen 3 – http://www.nightvision.com/products/military/case_study-gen3.htm

    It looks like there are 4 generations of night vision but the third and fourth are both technically Gen 3 tubes and ITT is calling them Gen 3 enhanced……

    Just wanted to give a little clarification because there is a lot of confusion out there on Gen 4.

  • Aurelien

    Technically there is no Gen4. The correct term is Gen3 autogated unfilmed.
    The modifications are not considered big enough by DoD to call those ‘new’ tubes Gen4. The basis is exactly the same as the Gen3.

  • http://ww.kimber1911pistols.com Kimber1911Pistols.com

    Ok…. That is what I was thinking. Our company just purchased some Gen 3 Autogated optics from two different companies that use ITT tubes. They were both quite explicit on calling out the “myth” of Gen 4…. Just wanted to try to pass on what I’ve heard to keep others from being confused.