Letter Re: Night Vision Gear and Infrared


I’ve read JWR’s books and have been reading your site for a year now. I am a big fan. However, I’ve seen little or no verbiage on where to buy reasonably priced NVG or IR. Obviously your books and those of other good writers, like Joe Nobody, talk constantly about using them, and yet, it seems none are priced less than $1500. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks in advance. – J

HJL’s Comment:

As an entry level device, you can get a first generation device (usually Russian made) at nearly any sporting goods store that carries hunting/camping equipment for as low as $300. While these devices are okay for basic use, they have limited range and limited resolution. Unless they have been autogated (shuts off temporarily when bright lights are sensed) they can be damaged in normal light. They can also go completely white (well, really green) ruining your night vision for several minutes in those conditions.

The better units are much more expensive but well worth it. You are not going to be able to get into a Generation 3+ unit for much less than about $3000, even when they are on sale. However, once you’ve used one, you won’t want to go back. The gen 1 or gen 2 units are very distant in performance.

Both companies are running sales right now where you can pick one up for $2999 (a savings of over $700). Both companies are top notch and take care of their customers. When you are on their website, take a look at their other offerings.

A PVS-14 is a serious investment, but one that I cannot imagine being without. I’d recommend that you budget for one and while you are saving up, take a look at this article: Night Vision Gear for Those on a Tight Budget, by Robert C.


  1. I’m Certain PVS-14’s are awesome, and I’d love to have one. Unfortunately, it’s just not in the budget, and I won’t go into debt for gear. But I absolutely needed something, as I live a LONG way from street lights, but a short ways from Coyotes. Might I humbly suggest the Firefield FF16001 NVS? It was positively reviewed on this blog by Mr. Cascio not long ago, and currently available on Amazon for $275. My personal opinion is that it fits the minimum “Something Is Better Than Nothing” requirement. It certainly isn’t a Gen 3, but all things considered performs admirably.

  2. If you’re thinking of a battle type use for night vision, and I had a few guns that I never or seldom use, I would sell them to get the pvs14. I would sell off any of my other toys to get one. Indenture my children, ok maybe not that. But you get the idea. If it’s only for hunting of varmint control go cheaper. If you’re thinking SHTF do whatever you can to get one. I’ve used both the dealers mentioned, both are good people.

    1. What Roadkill said!

      You don’t realize how important the NVG is until you’ve actually used one. With it, you own the night. Ask any combat veteran how important that ability is (NVG and/or IR) and I think you’d be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t feel that way about them. I’ve never been in combat, but for Intelligence gathering at night, there is no equal that you can put in your kit and carry. I’ve used them to take out predatory animals that raid the livestock and to just know what’s going on around the homestead. Currently, I have a helmet mounted PVS-14 (on a bump helmet) with a DBAL laser and a Trijicon AGOG. The optics on the rifle far outprice the rifle itself, but they make it into an incredibly usable tool.

  3. An excellent option is the Leupold thermo scope. At 900.00 dollars it is a mid priced optic that is outstanding. 100% better then the FLIR scout for 600.00.

  4. I know the budget retraints intimately. I recommend getting a decent Gen 1 immediately and then saving for a higher level version. Just as you want both a .22LR AND an MBR, going without any night vision device or night sighting device is a bad idea. When you have practiced with your Gen 1 you’ll get a better feel for what you want in a better model. Or maybe you’ll decide what you really want is a thermal imaging (like our former infantry group member) sight instead. So should you go on to either of those, your Gen 1 will still be a good backup. Two is one. My first NSD is a Firefield, for $312 I am thrilled with what I got.

    I looked at the Firefield NVD and it got good reviews. So I went with their NSD instead. It straps right onto Wheatley and I am off and night capable……instead of night blind. And it runs on AA batteries. We own the night..on passive. When you turn on the IR, however, the red light shiones through the far end of your scope and from the target area you can see it magnified through the tube which gives away the shooter- no IR goggles required.

    BTW I used the US Army versions in the 80’s. Last century stuff had better zoom-in but the Firefield has far less snow. Best wishes.

    1. @fasttimes – The preference is to use them on headgear with a pointing laser like the DBAL on your rifle. You can mount NVG on your rifle, but the problem is when you want to use the device to look around you. Your buddies probably don’t want to be flagged as you point your rifle where you want to look.

  5. Is it better/more useful to purchase night vision gear or infrared/heat sensor device first?

    I imagine they have different uses, but which one do you find most useful?

  6. Ok, agreed the best NVG is very handy. But might I put in that my choice, not being a 1% center, is the Photon Sightmark XT. For 450.00 this IR emitter works very good out to at least 160 yards. I can make out beasts and men easily. Uses AA batts. Now yes I know a guy with an IR spotter can make me out. But frankly my likely adversaries are gang bangers and other miscreants. They would typically not have the smarts or tech savvy to figure that out. This think for the money works great.

  7. A just as cheap option, or maybe cheaper option, than a GEN 1 night vision device would be a decent set of binoculars. Years ago, when night vision devices were starting to hit the civilian market, I just could not afford them. Instead, after doing some research, I purchased Tasco 9×63 low-light binoculars, which were the best I could afford at that time. With those, after my eyes became adjusted to the night, I could see amazing things, such as shadows cast on the ground by trees from starlight on a moonless night. 7×50 binoculars are almost as good. Even the lowly 7×35 binoculars are pretty amazing. Try to avoid cheap binoculars, since the lens material will not transmit as much light. (Even in the store, you can do a one-to-one comparison between the store brand, and, for example, Nikon binoculars. The Nikons will cost more, but will have a noticeably brighter image.)

    Much later, I purchased an inexpensive GEN 1 Russin night vision device, and was very disappointed. It seemed to me that I could see more with my night-adjusted eyes than I could see through the NVD. Using the NVD with its built-in IR illuminator would offer some advantage, unless your opponent also had an NVD device, it which case the IR illuminator would act like a beacon.

    When it comes to more expensive devices, such as GEN 3 NVD versus a thermal imaging device, if you could only afford one device, I would go with the thermal imaging device first. You will see things with the thermal imaging device you would never see with the NVD.

  8. Nice thing about thermal is you can use it both day and night. I would agree/maybe get thermal first. Much easier to patrol with nvd. You can hide from thermal, but you can definitely hide from nvd’s. If you you are operating with a group, and you should be, one family can get nods the other thermal. Share and train together. Then think of dbal for your weapon. By the way, hand hold the thermal, helmet mount the nods.

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