Letter Re: Recommendations for Night Vision Goggles?

Are you going to do a post on [Starlight] Night Vision Goggles, where to buy, and what type of NVGs is the best? – K.T. [of KT Ordnance]

JWR Replies: The light amplification NVG market has become crowded in recent years, primarily with junk that is prone to failure. I most strongly recommend that you you buy only good quality scopes. This generally means American or Israeli-made, not Russian.

If you can only afford one piece of starlight gear, then make it a weapon sight. You can always use a weapon sight dismounted (as a monocular), but you cannot mont a monocular or a pair of goggles to a weapon. (Yes, I know, you can use NVGs in conjunction with a laser aiming light, but that is adding another layer of logistics complexity.) I would rather have one reliable first generation (“Gen 1”) or second generation (“Gen 2′”) scope such as an AN/PVS-2 than I would three or four fragile, unreliable Russian scopes for the same amount of money.

If you have a lavish budget, go for broke: buy a redundant set of two or three Gen 3 scopes (such as AN/PVS-4s) and two or three NVGs (such as AN/PVS-7s). If you have bagoodles of money, you might even consider getting a few AN/PAQ-4 laser aiming lights and perhaps even one of the new Raytheon Gen 2 “Warrior” IR-50 thermal weapon sights that are just coming onto the civilian market. But hang on to your wallet… The IR-50s currently cost around $20,000 each!

When selecting any starlight gear, buy only equipment with guaranteed “low hours” U.S. full military specification tubes that come with authentic data sheets specifying their actual measured number of line pairs.  If you have the opportunity to do side-by-side night-time comparisons, pick a device that has minimum scintillation (a.k.a.”the sparklies”), a maximum number of line pairs, and the best possible optical clarity.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for someone who is looking at the potential of  a “long term worst case” situation, you should buy only equipment that is compatible with standard “off the shelf” rechargeable NiMH batteries. As David in Israel is fond of mentioning: “Remember, you are not the U.S. military with a huge budget and a long logistics tail.”  Plan and make your purchases according.

Three night vision gear vendors that I know and trust are JRH Enterprises, Ready Made Resources, and STANO Components, Inc.  All three of these firms are competent, trustworthy, and will go to the extra effort to make sure that you are completely satisfied.