The Best Night Vision Rifle Scopes
So, you finally made the decision, you want to take the plunge into night vision. And you’ve weighted your options and decided your night vision would be best suited mounted to your rifle. Exciting right? You’ve watched videos online about it, you budgeted a certain amount, then went to Optics Planet to find the sight of your dreams. Suddenly you’re hit with hundreds of different models and price points. Varied brands, model numbers, and designations. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Not to fear, I’m here to help you work through it. Hopefully after reading this you’ll be able to make an informed decision. Soon enough you’ll be in the back yard taking care of those pesky opossums that are digging up your flower bed at night.
Digital vs Conventional Night Vision Scopes
So, you look on the ads and see designations such as DIG or GEN 1, 2, or 3. What does all this mean, and which one do you need?
Conventional night vision or Intensifier Tube night vision is a technology that has been around since the 1930s. These devices use an analog photocathode tube which takes light and amplifies it by turning light photons (most importantly IR) into an electrical signal. The original or Gen 0 tubes were not remarkably effective and required a lot of IR light. Newer generations, however, give very crisp images even in extremely low light.
So why doesn’t everyone just buy the newest generation tube night vision and call it a day? For starters, while earlier generations of these devices are now relatively affordable, they just simply don’t hold the same quality display. Newer generations of conventional night vision are expensive, but they produce a quality unseen anywhere else in night vision.
Conventional tubes are sensitive, and much more fragile than digital components. They must be kept away from sources of light when not in use as the tubes are very susceptible to burning.
When I was in school for armored security vehicles in the Army, the gunner’s turret was outfitted with a night vision sight. One of the gunners of the truck that was near the one I was assigned left the NV Sight cover slightly pulled away from the sight after night fire. The vehicles went unused the next day and upon returning to them, the sun’s movement across the sky had tracked through the night vision tube cover gap and left a large, irreparable streak in the sight. My point with this is to be careful, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on care and your investment will be fine, but accidents happen.
Digital Night Vision is a digital camera. This technology is not very new but using it as a form of night vision is a relatively new idea. It uses a camera sensor to detect light (again IR is important here) and instead of making it into a displayable electrical image it turns the data into a digital signal and displays it on a lcd screen. The problem with digital night vision up to this point is that the quality, historically has not been particularly good. These DIG night vision devices you see at your local department store are cheap for a reason and may not even compete with a standard GEN1 conventional night vision scope. But in recent years sensors have improved, they’ve gotten better processing units, and the picture quality has later improved. Although they may not be able to produce the quality of a premium analog device, you may find that it suits your needs fine. The main appeal with digital night vision is the fact that they cost just a fraction of the price of modern analog devices. Being that it is a digital device that uses a CPU opens other doors as well. ATN’s X-Sight series has some neat features that take advantage of this system such as digital range calculations and onboard video recording. The last advantage with digital scopes is that they can usually be used during the day without making any changes.
Which Brand of Night Vision Scopes is Best?
So, at this point you’ve decided what you want (based on the price/mission ratio) as far as digital or analog goes. Now you need to find a reputable dealer who sells quality products. For me Optics Planet is who I use for anything related to scopes or night vision and have for years. They quite literally have anything you will ever need when it comes to those types of things.
Next you need to pick a Brand, for digital, ATN and Sightmark are the main ones that come to mind. I think especially if you are on a budget, you will not be disappointed with them.
For analog I tend to lean towards things that are Milspec but the amount of analog scopes that are solely for the purpose of mounting on a rifle are limited. They are not cheap by any stretch but if quality is something you need for your mission then you will be amazed at the clarity of these little bad boys.
Is A Night Vision Scope in Your Future?
Increasingly these days we’re seeing the use of these night vision devices. People are learning that, as these devices become more affordable for everyday people, it opens another realm to them. Whether it be finally taking care of that hog problem on the farm to use in personal defense. Night vision really is an incredible technology.
The most interesting thing is that it the technologies are advancing at a much more rapid pace than they were when night vision first started being used. Although I fear that we may be nearing the limit to what we can do with Analog night vision systems, As our digital technologies become more advanced and as camera sensors become more efficient we will see the quality of digital night vision supersede analog. Likely see the quality of digital night vision supersede analog.