Shooting with an optic especially with a red dot is one of the best advancements for the AR platform. There is a whole world of optics and mounts to shoot a red dot with your AR but there are some that are specially made for use with night vision. These night vision optic risers elevate your optic and shooting experience when shooting in the dark with NODs (Night Observation Device).
Why A Night Vision Optic Riser?
Why can’t I just shoot my AR with my current optic setup? Sure you can try and do that while wearing night vision. While shooting is generally a subjective thing, there is certain gear that can help make shooting easier and more comfortable for you.
Why should I shoot with an optic when I have this sweet IR laser on my gun? In many cases, shooters tend to aim with an IR laser when using night vision. You do not have to get behind your optic, just point the laser and pull the trigger. But what happens your target has the ability to see IR lights/lasers and can shoot back? Shooting through an optic with night vision is a force on force issue. Passive aiming has its uses even in the world of night vision. Also, lasers tend to bloom when looking through night vision. Aiming with a red dot is easier and you can control the brightness of the reticle so you can reduce the blooming so it does not obscure your target allowing you to be a more precise shooter.
Take a look at the photo below. What do you notice about the position of my head and more importantly where my eyes are looking?
Contrary to some thoughts, your head is not perfectly straight up and down with relation to your rifle or your optic. Even if you square up to your target pay attention to where your head goes when you aim. This is the reason POV cameras are not great. Ever try wearing those camera glasses where the camera is in the middle of the bridge of the frames? Try grabbing a rifle and try to aim while recording video with those video glasses. Where the camera looks is nowhere near where your eyes are looking. Here is the same photo but I illustrated what I am talking about. Given my head position, I should be looking down at the ground but thankfully my eyeballs are articulated. So even though my head is down, I am looking upwards and forwards through the red dot.
Now imagine I was wearing night vision. If I had NODs in front of my face where would they be? They would be trying to share the same space as the upper receiver.
You can try and aim a traditional lower 1/3 co-witness optic with night vision but it can be awkward for some. Take a look at the two photos below.
Shooting a rifle with a standard mount can work with NODs but it requires experience and practice.
EOTech EXPS3 is more forgiving than small micro red dots like the Aimpoint T1/T2 style optics and you can usually get away using one with night vision since they are naturally a lower 1/3 co-witness.
There Is A Better Way With Technology!
Higher is better in this case. As I said earlier the EOTech HWS is more forgiving since their window is so large it is one of the best optics for using with night vision. Thermal drift issues aside of course but those are no longer an issue.
While the EXPS3 is taller than EOTech’s normal HWS, it is still not tall enough so Wilcox made a small riser to elevate an EXPS3.
The riser helps to bring the optic into your line of sight so you do not have to bury your head down into the gun. As you can see in the photos above, the Wilcox riser was designed with a special flip mount for the EOTech G33 magnifier.
The EXPS3 is approximately 1.59 inches tall. That is the height of the reticle over the top rail. The Wilcox risers come in two different heights. Either 0.625″ and 0.410″. The 5/8 height brings the reticle up to 2.215″. Which is close to other night vision optic risers on the market.
Kinetic Development Sidelok Riser
Kinetic Development Group or KDG has a QD mount using their Sidelok design. And it works great with an EOTech HWS EXPS3. As you can see in the photo below the Sidelok Universal Riser is 0.859 inches tall. Which puts an EXPS3 reticle at 2.44 inches. This is actually close to my setup on my 416. The 416 top rail is about 6mm or 0.23″ taller than a standard AR top rail. That makes my EOTech X Wilcox setup 2.44 inches tall.
ADM NVG Height Mount
ADM makes a tall mount for Aimpoint T1 style optics. It puts the center of the optic at 2.33″ above the top rail.
Knights Armament High Rise Mount
Knights Armament has their own night vision optic riser called the High Rise.
Designed by Special Operations Veteran Jason Falla in collaboration with Knight’s Armament Company, our High Rise Mount is engraved with the Redback One logo. This mount has been developed for the Aimpoint Micro Series Optics and provides users with a 3.5″ elevation over the line of bore. This combat-ready mount is made from billet aluminum with an anti-corrosive finish and mounts easily to any mil-standard rail segment. This mount was developed to increase the user’s performance in combat shooting, CQB, night vision and gas mask operations as well as provide a more natural head position while shooting, minimizing fatigue. The integrated rail segment at the rear of the mount allows users to quickly mount accessories such as magnifiers for long distance shooting or a night vision monocular for passive targeting. This unique mount allows the user to witness back up sights through the mount, mitigating the need for quick detach systems while reducing weight and increasing repeatability.
Just like the Wilcox riser, the High Rise mount was designed to work with a magnifier. In this case the Aimpoint 3x magnifier.
One benefit the High Rise has over the EOTech X Wilcox setup is the ability to see through the High Rise mount and see your BUIS. Just like the ADM mount, the High Rise puts the center of the optic at 2.33″ above the top rail.
Unity Tactical FAST Mount
The most recent night vision optic riser design comes from Unity Tactical. Their FAST mount positions an Aimpoint micro-style optic at 2.26″ above the top rail. And just like the KAC High Rise you can aim through the FAST mount and use your iron sights. In fact, the Unit FAST Micro Mount has a built-in rear peep sight. This is due to their FAST FTC Aimpoint magnifier mount. When the FTC mount folds downwards a rear BUIS would get in the way so you have to remove your rear BUIS from the top rail if you want to run a magnifier in Unity’s FTC mount.
Unity’s FTC mount does not fold the Aimpoint magnifier to the side like most mounts. Instead, the magnifier rolls into the mount basically dropping the magnifier down above the top rail. See the photos below.
Unity Tactical also has a universal optic riser designed for lower 1/3 optics like the Eotech EXPS3.
But My Cheek Weld!!
Some of you may be wondering about cheek weld and “Holy height over bore Batman!”. Yes with these night vision optic riser options you do get more of a chin weld than traditional optic setups. If you notice the Unity Tactical FAST is specifically lower than the KAC and ADM 2.33″. 2.26″ does not seem like much but it does make for a better chin weld. In the grand scheme of things though cheek weld is not that crucial for Night Vision shooting distances.
Here I hit a steel torso target at 387 yards away using my 9″ 416 with an EOTech EXPS3 and G33 magnifier sitting on a Wilcox riser.
Just know your holds for given distances. Height over bore is good to know when shooting targets inside of 10 yards but how often are you really doing that unless you are LE or MIL? If you train a lot then relearning your height over bore hold is not really a big deal especially if you are shooting more often with night vision.
Night Vision Optic Riser Roundup
The Unity Tactical FAST riser and KDG riser are the least expensive mentioned above at $88 and $89 respectively. The FAST riser was made in conjunction with their FTC magnifier mount while the KDG is not. And given the 2.44″ height of the KDG riser, you will be hard pressed to find an optic mount for a magnifier that will work with the KDG riser.
The ADM NVG Height mount is the next in terms of affordability at $139.95 from TNVC. But you cannot see through the ADM to use your BUIS if you needed to. Which puts the Unity FAST Micro Mount slightly ahead of the game for just a little more at $169.
The KAC High rise and Wilcox risers are the most expensive. The High Rise is $239.99 while the Wilcox starts at $470.32 on TNVC. Now the Wilcox riser does come with the G33 magnifier flip mount for that price. And given that the G33 flip mount is about $374 that makes the Wilcox riser less than $100 depending which riser height you get and the flip mount.
There is always the option of making your own riser. My friend Brian Miller aka @BKMILLER556 made a tall optic mount for a competitive USPSA shooter. This shooter wanted an optic riser that would put the optic 1″ above absolute co-witness. This just happens to be the sweet spot for night vision. So Brian sent me one of his optic mounts and it works great with my Burris Fast Fire III and night vision.
Night vision is very much gear oriented. Getting the right gear can help make shooting under NODs a more pleasant experience as well as making it much easier to do.