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Night Vision Scopes

Night Vision Scopes: From History to Practical Applications

Night vision scopes have evolved a lot since they first appeared on the market. These devices allow shooters to see targets regardless of the amount of light that is available. As long as there is some light available, you will be able to use the scope to cut through the night. These scopes work on principles which use passive light detection to allow the viewer to see everything even in the dead of night.

A look at the history of night vision

In order to understand the use of night vision scopes, it is useful to look at the history of night vision.The first night vision devices were created during World War II in what is now known as Generation 0. These used black lights and ultraviolet lights. First created by Radio Corporation of America, these giant devices were not practical. It was not until 1939 with the Germans that the night vision devices became practical for military use.The night vision scopes were developed on both sides of the war in 1944-1945 with Germans developing the "Vampir" man-portable system and the Americans developing sniperscope and snooperscope. The German night vision scopes were used with the Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifles while the American night vision scopes were used with the M1 and M3 rifles. The night vision technology was also used on the tanks, but this was the first foray into the realm of night vision scopes. The problem was that the night vision scopes were so large and bulky due to the need to broadcast ultraviolet light that they were not extremely practical.

The first development of passive night vision scopes (Gen I) were developed during the Vietnam War. These scopes, such as the Starlight Scope, worked on the use of ambient light rather than infrared light. There was no need to have a separate broadcasting light in order to see making it far more practical and increasing the distance it was possible to see. These nightvision scopes were used attached to the M16A1 rifles and sniper rifles to allow for the use of night attacks. These night vision scopes use a S-20 photocathode to amplify the light up to 1,000x. It is important to keep in mind that these require at least the light of the moon to work correctly.The development of Gen II night vision scopes uses a micro-channel plate (MCP) along with an S-25 photocathode. This allows for a light amplification of about 20,000x meaning that it is now possible to use the night vision scopes without the availability of the moonlight. This makes it possible to use the night vision scopes even on nights where there is little to no light available from the moon or other light sources.

Further development of the technology used in night vision scopes helped to create Gen 3 technology. Along with the MCP found in Gen 2 gallium arsenide is used for the photocathode for better resolution of the image. The ion barrier film in these night vision scopes also allows for the tube used to last even longer. The light amplification available with this technology is up to 30,000-50,000x, but there is also a much higher power usage than with the Generation 2 night vision scopes. The Omnibus-VII Gen 3 or Gen 4 are almost the same as Gen 3 except for the difference of a decreased or non-existent ionic barrier. Additionally, these night vision scopes have the ability to instantly adjust to light conditions thanks to an automatic gated (known as auto-gating) power supply system. The main benefit of the reduced or removed ionic barrier is less image ‘static’ when using night vision scopes. The downside to reducing or removing this barrier is that the tube will not last as long. However, this is a tradeoff most are willing to take since the night vision scopes will likely be replaced before the tube has downgraded to the point of failure.

Legality of Night Vision Scopes

Most of the countries of the world do not have restrictions on night vision scopes. However, Hungary and European Union has a ban on any night vision device that can be mounted on a weapon. This means that in these countries, night vision scopes are illegal to use. The one exception in the European Union is the Netherlands, where they do not observe any restrictions on night vision usage. In Iceland, it is not illegal to possess night vision scopes, however, you are not allowed to use them in the act of hunting. In the United States, there are no bans on the sales or use of night vision scopes. The only exception is California. In this state, you will be slapped with a misdemeanor charge for using night vision scopes. They only allow the use of Gen 0 model NVDs for the purpose of telescopes or displays, but not for the use with weapons.

Use of Night Vision Scopes

It is extremely easy to use night vision scopes. Simply make sure that you are using the right type of night vision scopes for the amount of ambient light that you have available and you will be able to see for the distances that the scope is rated for. Make sure that the scope is attached correctly to the rifle and that it is adjusted for your rifle and type of ammo and you will be able to have a high degree of accuracy.It is important to keep in mind that while the technology has come a long way, night vision scopes are still not extremely rugged. If dropped, they will not operate correctly and could fail altogether. The sacrificial lens on most night vision scopes can help to protect the more important lenses of the night vision scopes from being damaged, but scratches can cause the scope to be worthless.One of the main complaints that people have had for night vision scopes in the past is the weight. This has mostly been compensated for with recent innovations. The total weight of night vision scopes has come down to a point where they are now only slight heavier than a regular scope. The power usage has decreased with new developments in the technology making them even more portable and useful in tactical environments.

What Companies Sell Night Vision Scopes

There are a few different companies selling models of night vision scopes currently. ATN has a few night vision scopes available. One of the most popular models that they sell is not truly a scope as it is an attachment to a daytime scope. Used with brands like Leupold, Trijicon, U.S. Optics etc. allows you to enjoy superior visibility day or night without having to commit to installing night vision scopes on your rifle. If you are looking for dedicated night vision scopes, Armasight makes some of the best models using Gen I technology with a twist. They have come up with a technology known as Ceramic Optical Ruggedized Engine (CORE). When used in these tubes, it can generate a better light amplification than the Gen I night vision tubes using a glass plate. This technology limits the edge distortion while increasing photo sensitivity. The overall result is a scope that is superior to many of the tubes using a micro channel plate. Pulsar offers Generation 2 and Digital night vision scopes. These scopes vary in quality and light intensification. Slimmer models are available, but the most popular of the Pulsar night vision scopes are those with a little bulk to them because they offer an increased amount of light amplification.

If what you are looking for is a value, you will be able to find it in the Yukon night vision scopes. These are marketed not only to those using the night vision scopes for hunting as well as those using them in recreational games like airsoft. One of the benefits of these night vision scopes is that there are models that serve as a dual purpose detachable monocular.Those looking for tactical night vision scopes will certainly lean towards the models from ITT. After all, this is the go to company for the U.S. Army and many other military divisions. These are durable and accurate night vision scopes that are made to last. Sightmark is known as a pioneer in the digital night vision technology. This technology is digitally enhanced and usually costs less than Gen 2 and Gen 3 night vision technologies since it does not rely as heavily on plates. The affordability factor puts these digital night vision scopes into the rifle bags of more hunters.

Night Optics USA is a Bushnell company and provides versatile night vision scopes that can also be used during the daytime. Because these use the lenses found in Bushnell scopes as well as the technology from Gen I, Gen II and Gen III, it is possible to get a better range of light intensification. US Night Vision delves mostly into the use of FLIR technology for night vision scopes. These are good for use when not only is there poor lighting conditions, but there might also be environmental factors obstructing your view.


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