All You Need for Night Ops

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Several years ago I was in the right place at the right time and got a killer deal on some Gen 3 night vision tubes. Money was tight (isn’t it always?), but I couldn’t turn down the deal. I was familiar with NVGs from using PVS7s on the border to hunt down illegal alien traffickers and drug smugglers, and I used PVS14s a little bit in Afghanistan, but that was the extent of my knowledge. The next several years I slowly researched and put together my NVG kit. The Armasight Ultimate Night Vision Kit would have made this way easier.

Armasight Ultimate Night Vision Kit

But first, I got an old set of ANVIS 6s and had the tubes put in them. Then I learned about the different types of mounting options, bayonet vs dovetail, J Arms, Wilcox vs Norotos, battery packs, retention lanyards, stabilizing bungees, bump helmets vs skull crushers, shrouds, IR illuminators, counter-weights, cable management, and a million other details. I slowly bought parts off of eBay (some good, some bad) and watched countless YouTube videos and spent hours reading forums. Years later, I have a pretty decent set of up-armored, dual-tube NVGs, but I spent hundreds of hours and honestly wasted a lot of money buying parts that often didn’t work.

My story isn’t unique. Most people who have gone on the quest to buy night vision have done something similar. Armasight realized that there are a lot of people out there who want night vision who simply do not have that kind of time or energy to invest. So they recently released their Ultimate Night Vision Kit, for one-stop shopping. They made the kit have lots of options, but ultimately, it cuts out the guesswork by getting you one of each of the MANY parts you need, it all works together, and you don’t end up with a lot of non-compatible junk. I recently got to talk to some of the guys at Armasight about their package deal and ultimately got to try out the BNVD-51 Ultimate Kit for myself.

Night Vision Options

First, lets talk about the heart of the kit, the night vision itself. Your options range from single tube PVS14 (these are still awesome, but you won’t have depth perception) to dual-tube BNVD-40 or BNVD-51s. 40-degree vs 51-degree is just how wide your field of view is. Using NVGs is liking using binoculars, but never putting them down. They are the definition of “tunnel vision.” 51-degree has a ≈25% wider field of view than 40-degree and typically just makes life easier. All of the kits come with White Phosphor tubes. This means you will see everything in black and white, instead of black and green like more traditional night vision.

White Phosphor, affectionately called “Willy Papa,” is what all of the Special Forces units have switched to because you don’t get the nausea and headache from the eye strain, and they provide better contrast which means you can see things clearer at a distance. Armasight offers two different tube choices: Pinnacle and Pinnacle 2376. This is the “Figure of Merit” which is number of lines per millimeter multiplied by signal-to-noise ratio. The higher the FOM rating, the higher the resolution and signal-to-noise ratio is in the system.

Think of it as looking at a 4K television vs Full HD. The PVS14s have the added advantage of being able to be attached to many camera systems if you want to take photos or movies. All of the units have built-in IR illuminators which allows you to see in 100% darkness (i.e. a cave). They also have manual gain controls which means you can turn the brightness up and down to your personal preference.

Mounting the NV

Now, you need a way to attach the NV to your noggin. The two main ways are with a bayonet or dovetail mount. Dovetail is considered superior because the NV has far less wiggle and a smaller latch, so you aren’t as likely to accidentally unfasten/drop it. The BNVD goggles come set up with the dovetail mount, but there is a bayonet mount included that could replace the dovetail if you already have a kit set up with the older style mount.

Next you need the mount. This hooks to your NV and then to the shroud on your helmet. It has to have a hinge in it so the NV can be flipped up, out of the way, when needed. For a very long time, the Rhino mount was the most common one in the military. It was used with a bayonet style “J-Arm” that hooked onto PVS14s and their clones. They were called Rhino because when you flipped your NV up out of the way, it looked like you had a rhinoceros horn. The Armasight Ultimate Kit comes with Armasight G95 mount, designed and manufactured by Wilcox. This is light-years better than the old Rhino mount. They are incredibly well designed and capable of tons of adjustments to make the goggles perfectly align to anyone’s face.

Finally, you need a helmet where you attach this stuff. Yes, it is possible to forego the helmet and wear it with a skull crusher, but trust me, you don’t want to. The name says it all. Armasight’s Ultimate Kit comes with a Team Wendy EXFIL LTP Bump Helmet. This is a well-designed, top-of-the-line helmet that fits well on almost any head because of the Zorbium foam lining and BOA Fit System. You turn a knob in the back and it slowly squeezes until you have a perfect fit. Pop out the knob and it gets loose again.

The Armasight Ultimate Night Vision Kit takes out the guess work on gearing up.

Power & Weight Distribution

The helmet comes with Exfil Rail 3.0 system on the side that allows you to mount hearing protection or an IR light using Picatinny or M-LOK style mounts. It also holds the external battery pack that Armasight includes. This not only provides two extra sets of batteries, it acts as a counterweight to your NODs. Having that much weight up front can seriously wear on your neck in a very short time. I’m a big believer in running a battery pack, a counterweight, or both on the back of the helmet to keep it balanced and extend the amount of time you can comfortably wear them.

In addition to all of the critical pieces of the Ultimate Kit, there are a bunch of add-ons. There is an incredibly well-designed helmet bag from OTTE Gear. I knew OTTE made incredible jackets, but their Armasight Night Vision Helmet bag is so amazing I plan to buy them for my personal NVGs. They are very modular with pouches and pockets and loops to put all of your gear inside and keep it padded so it isn’t damaged or gets scratched up. They also include an Armasight Watchman IR illuminator.

IR Illuminator Use

Yes, the goggles and monoculars come with built-in illuminators, but they are for seeing things up close like the stairs you are walking up. If you want to really reach out to see a hog or coyote, an IR illuminator is a good investment. This one can be focused from narrow to wide angle, has three power settings, has a push-button tail cap and a remote pressure switch tail cap, and comes with a 30mm mount ring so you can attach it to a Picatinny rail on your rifle or on the helmet. Then they have all the little bits and pieces like sacrificial lens covers, cleaning cloths, bungie cords for the helmet, and lots of other little pieces that you may want to use to personalize your kit.

A couple buddies and I took the kit on a hog hunt to Texas. We also took my Anvis 6 NVGs. We tried our hands at mobile hunting using NVGs and IR lasers/illuminators. As a test, I set up our hosts, a couple of Texas ranchers, with NVGs. Neither had been in the military nor had experience previously wearing NVGs. One wore the Armasight Ultimate Kit and one wore my ANVIS 6s. Both took to them instantly.

In the Field

In fact, 10 minutes after donning them for the first time they were driving Kawasaki Mules at almost full throttle down winding ranch roads with sheer drop offs on one side in pitch darkness. The BNVD-51s have a better picture and have a built-in IR illuminator that proved really handy, but the ANVIS 6s were still sufficient. It wasn’t until a little later that the advantage of the white phosphor goggles really shone over the traditional green tubes. The man wearing the ANVIS 6s started getting a splitting headache and nausea after wearing them for less than two hours, something I have experienced myself. The Armasight BNVD-51 goggles were comfortable all night. While we didn’t see any hogs that night, both men described the experience as “life changing” and had no trouble using them exclusively for driving, hiking and hunting with minimal instruction or training.

So how much does all of this cost? MSRP ranges from $6,399 to $9,999 depending on which options. Sound pricey? Not really. If you buy all the parts separately, you will end up spending considerably more and spending months if not years to get it all set up. What no one tells you is you will make mistakes. You will buy a mount or a shroud or a battery pack because you are sure that is what you will use, and eventually it either won’t work, or you will change your mind and have to replace it with a different model. I literally have a tote filled with NVG parts and accessories that I bought and never use. I would have been money ahead if I had simply purchased the Amasight kit from the beginning, and never looked back. Of course, they didn’t have it back then.

For more information see Armasight.com.

Included in the Kit:

  • PVS-14 Monocular, BNVD-40, or BNVD-51 Gen 3 Pinnacle Night Vision Goggle 
  • Team Wendy EXFIL LTP Bump Helmet Rail 3.0 in Armasight Gray
  • Armasight by OTTE Gear Night Vision Helmet Bag
  • Armasight G95 NVG Mount Designed & Manufactured by Wilcox Industries
  • Watchman IR Illuminator
  • 30mm Ring Mount (to mount IR Illuminator on Picatinny)
  • Battery Pack #206 for BNVD-40 and BNVD- 51 systems

PVS-14 Gen 3 Pinnacle Night Vision Monocular

  • Image Intensifier Tube Generation: Gen 3 Thin-Filmed Manual Gain Control
  • Resolution: 64-81 lp/mm
  • Manual Gain Control: Yes
  • Bright Light Cut-off: Yes
  • Infrared Illuminator: Yes (Built-in)
  • IR Indicator: Yes (in FOV)
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Lens System: F1.2; 27mm
  • Field of View: 40°
  • Focus Range: 0.25m to infinity
  • Diopter Adjustment: -6 to +2 dpt
  • Power Supply: 1x AA (1.5V) Battery
  • Battery Life: 50 Hours
  • Low Battery Indicator: Yes (in FOV)
  • Environmental Rating: IP67
  • Operating Temperature: -51° C to +49° C (-60° F to + 120° F)
  • Storage Temperature: -51° C to +85° C (-60° F to + 185° F)
  • Dimensions: 114 x 51 x 57mm / 4.5 x 2 x 2.25in
  • Weight: 0.35 kg / 12.4 oz
  • Warranty: 3 years w/ registration

BNVD-51 Gen 3 Pinnacle Night Vision Goggle

  • Image Intensifier Tube Generation: Gen 3 Thin-Filmed Manual Gain Control
  • Resolution: 64-81 lp/mm
  • Manual Gain Control: Yes
  • Bright Light Cut-off: Yes
  • Infrared Illuminator: Yes (Built-in)
  • IR Indicator: Yes (in FOV)
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Lens System: F1.26; 19mm
  • Field of View: 51°
  • Focus Range: 0.25m to infinity
  • Eye Relief: 17mm
  • Diopter Adjustment: -6 to +2 dpt
  • Power Supply: 1 x CR123A (3V) or 1 x AA (1.5V) Battery
  • Battery Life: 12 Hours (1.5V) / 20 Hours (3V) at 20° C
  • Low Battery Indicator: Yes (in FOV)
  • Environmental Rating: IP67
  • Operating Temperature: -51° C to +49° C (-60° F to + 120° F)
  • Storage Temperature: -51° C to +85° C (-60° F to + 185° F)
  • Dimensions: 137 x 73 x 118mm / 5.4 x 2.8 x 4.6in
  • Weight: 0.64kg / 1.4lbs
  • Warranty: 3 years w/ registration
  • Color: Gray

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