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Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes When Buying a Night Vision Scope

night vision scope might be one of the most challenging devices for hunters to make an educated purchase. Because of this, many hunters tend to stay away from exploring night vision devices, and worse yet, make costly mistakes when purchasing them. This is why we’ve created a list of the common mistakes when buying a night vision scope to help you avoid making the same mistakes.

Mistake #1: Not Understanding the Capabilities of a Night Vision Scope
Night vision scopes have a wide variety of performance capabilities. Often times, people make the mistake of looking at the price range before having a clear understanding of the performance capabilities. It is best to ignore the price initially and begin to define the capabilities that you are looking for within a night vision scope. For example, start by identifying the type of target you will be aiming at, distance, and the lighting conditions your night vision scope will be used in. After you have determined these capabilities you can start to determine what price range of night scope options will meet your requirements.

Mistake #2: Settling for a Night Vision Scope that Doesn’t Meet Your Requirements
Sometimes you will determine that the capabilities that you are looking for in your night vision scope don’t meet your budget range. We hear often that people settled for a night vision scope that had less capabilities than they desired and they were very disappointed with their purchase. It might be best to wait until you have the larger budget so that you can purchase the night vision scope that meets your needs.

Mistake #3: Failing to Explore Options Other than a Night Vision Scopes
While a night vision is a great choice, there two other technologies, digital night vision and thermal imaging, that are becoming increasingly popular to hunters. Night vision, digital night vision, and thermal imaging are not limited to scopes. There are other devices that offer the same technology. While a scope is a very solid option for your rifle, there are binoculars, clip-on systems, goggles and monoculars that are availlable with these technologies. They are worth exploring to see if they meet your current needs and set-up

Mistake #4: Not Understanding the Laws Governing Night Vision Scope Usage
We often hear of people purchasing their night vision scope in hopes of using it to hunt at night, just to find out that their state doesn’t allow it. Make sure you research the hunting regulations within your state because the laws governing night vision device usage can vary considerably by state.

Mistake #5: Not Understanding the Difference of Generations of Night Vision Scope
It is extremely important to understand the difference in generations before buying a night vision scope. There is a considerable difference in both the performance as well as the longevity in the different generations. The difference between a Gen 1 night vision scope and a Gen 3 night vision scope can be like comparing a match to spotlight. We have created a guide that explains the differences between generations to help you make a more educated purchase.

night vision scope is sure to be a great addition to any hunter’s gear and add a whole new dimension to any hunting adventure. However, because a night vision scope is a big investment, it is very important to make an informed buying decision. By not making the mistakes mentioned in this article you will end up with a great night vision scope that will enhance your hunting experiences for years to come.

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Night Vision vs Thermal Imaging: What You Need to Know

Night vision and thermal imaging are very different technologies. Let’s explore both:

Night Vision
Night Vision devices take in small amounts of visible light, amplify it greatly, and project that on a display to provide the user with a clearer picture in low light situations. Night vision devices need some type of light in order to work. This light can be as subtle as moonlight or as expansive as an infrared lamp. If there is absolutely no light, your night vision device will be useless.

Night vision devices often offer greater image clarity than thermal devices. However they still have the same challenges that the human eye faces. For example, if objects are camouflaged, they will not be any easier to see with night vision. This is a situation where thermal imaging would be a good device to use. The thermal devices will be able to detect camouflaged objects just fine. Another challenge is that night vision will not work in daylight or in lighted rooms. Night vision devices are also not able to see through obscurants in the air such as fog, dust or sand.

Thermal Imaging
Thermal technology operates differently than night vision. It does not aggregate light. Instead thermal imaging operates off of heat and captures the “heat” that is emitted by all objects, including people and animals. Everything gives off thermal energy/heat, even ice. The hotter an object is, the more thermal energy is emitted. The emitted thermal energy from an object is called a “heat signature”. The thermal imaging devices detect the temperature differences of objects and translate them into image detail.

Everything we encounter in our day-to-day lives gives off thermal energy, even ice. The hotter something is the more thermal energy it emits. This emitted thermal energy is called a “heat signature.” When two objects next to one another have even subtly different heat signatures, they show up quite clearly to a FLIR regardless of lighting conditions.

Unlike night vision, thermal imaging works in both day and night, in light or in complete darkness. It also allows you to see through obscurants such as fog, dust, smoke or sand.

Thermal imaging devices also have the ability to track residual heat (warm spot left behind). For example, the device will be able to see handprints or footprints that are left behind from a person or animal.

In conclusion, thermal imaging detects the thermal or infrared energy emitted by various objects and turns that into an image. Night vision operates very similar to the human eye, and requires much less light to function.  

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Buying a Night Vision Scope: 5 Performance Factors to Consider

Night vision scopes are a bit trickier to determine which scope is best to buy compared to searching for the right night vision binocular, or monocular. Rifle scopes aren’t designed to simply observe, they are designed to hit a target. Therefore there are a variety of different factors to consider when determining a night vision scope’s quality within its specific generation.

night vision scope is a wonderful device, and it can work wonders in tactical situations. The Night Vision market continues to make great strides in improvement in performance. Slowly we are seeing prices lower and more night vision scopes available on the civilian market. Because there is such a wide variety of choices when purchasing a night vision scope, it is in your best interest to know what these NVD’s can do. This will help you determine the best night vision scope for you to invest in.

Here are 5 performance factors to consider when choosing the best night vision scope for your needs:

The resolution, contrast and distortion of your night vision scope will be some of the most critical factors for hunting and tactical operations. When in hunting or tactical situations, you will need to be able to positively identify your target. High resolution, high contrast along with lack of distortion and noise will contribute to the quality of a night vision image.

Resolution: The resolution of the night vision image is measured by lines per millimeter (LP/MM) in most night vision scopes on the market. The higher the LP/MM equals greater clarity. When hunting or in tactical situations you would rather be able to recognize someone at 60m versus recognizing that there is a figure 60m away. 

Distortion: The lower the distortion the flatter and less rounded image. Crisper details are important in tactical and hunting situations. It is best to choose a night vision rifle scope that offers glass optics. Glass optics will give the clearest and sharpest quality. Plastic optics offer a lower optical quality and a higher distortion.

What is your necessary recognition range? It is important to know your necessary recognition range with night vision scopes. Night Vision technology has not quite progressed to the point where it functions like a standard rifle scope. When looking at a night vision scope the total range isn’t as important as the recognition range of a night vision scope. Before buying your night vision scope, it is best to look for the recognition range over the total range.

When it comes to to night vision scopes they are no different than regular scopes in a few ways. Weight is weight, so a heavy night vision scope is still heavy. The higher the magnification usually means the optic is going to be bigger and heavier. If you are doing a lot of brush hunting, or off hand shooting, you may prefer a lighter optic. A heavy optic will be more difficult to aim, and more uncomfortable. It will also likely slow the speed of moving the weapon around. Size, weight and ease of use are important considerations. 

Durability & Reliability 
A night vision scope is a major investment. When you are spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on a rifle scope you want to make sure it is quality and that it will last you for a long time. With proper care, typically night vision devices are relatively trouble-free. However, when you start adding electronics, tubes, and specialized devices, to your scope you will have a higher potential for failure. It is important to recognize your scope’s limitations and respect them. Is it waterproof? What amount of recoil is it rated for? Think about how you will be using your optic and make a decision on how rough you think you will be with it.

More gain doesn’t always mean a clearer or better picture. It might only been a brighter picture. The most important gain measurement you need to know is the system gain. If the night vision scope’s system does not possess a good photosensitivity and SNR, a very high gain value simply means that you won’t be making the image better, you will only be making it brighter.

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What is the Difference Between Digital Night Vision and Night Vision?

Digital night vision is a newer consumer technology even though the core technology has actually been around for quite some time.

How Does Digital Night Vision Work?

The technology for Digital Night Vision is quite different from standard night vision. Available light is collected through the objective lens and then processes and converts this optical image into an electric signal through a highly sensitive Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) image sensor instead of focusing the light on an intensifier and converting the energy into electrons.

Next, the electrical signal is transferred onto a micro-display, which is a type of Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) flat-panel display screen. Each pixel is controlled by between one to four transistors in the LCD. As with standard night vision devices, you are not looking directly at an amplified image but rather a processed and recreated image.

If you are trying to remain undetected by whom or what you are viewing to keep yourself as inconspicuous as possible, look for a micro-display that takes the form of an eyepiece which you look into to view the image rather than on an LCD screen as you find on most digital cameras

Armasight Drone
**Pictured: Armasight Drone Pro 10X Digital Night Vision Scope

Main Advantages

Digital Night Vision offers a number of advantages over the more conventional intensifier tube night vision devices.

  • Price
    It can give results that are comparable to Gen 1 Night Vision Devices at less cost and without many of the distortions that you find in Generation 1 Night Vision Devices.
  • Image Quality
    You will not get the image distortion from the photocathode or phosphorescent screen blemishes with a Digital Night Vision Device.
  • Sunlight
    Regular Night Vision operates with fragile vacuum tubes. This puts these devices at risk of damage from bright light exposure. This i not the case with Digital Night Vision Devices. One You can look through Digital NVDs in the daylight without the concerns of damaging it.
  • Multiple Filters
    NVD’s many times include multiple filters. This is nice, because images can be viewed in shades of red, gray or green.
  • Photo & Video Recording
    The optical image is converted into a digital signal on an NVD. This makes it very easy to take that digital signal and record what you are seeing as either an image or as a video.


  • Reduced Range
    Unfortunately Digital NVDs have a significantly reduced range. You may even find that many of the Generation 1 NVDs will outperform the digital ones when viewing long distances.
  • Require Available Light
    They only amplify available light and require an IR illuminator to see in dark areas similar to Gen 1 night vision devices. 
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Night Vision: Understanding the Differences Between Generations

The caliber of different night vision systems are graded by generations. For example, Gen 1 was developed first in the 1960’s and are still used today because because it is still sufficient for the average consumer and the cost is affordable. Next came Gen 2 models which considerably increased the quality of the image intensifier tube. Generation 3 is the latest in night vision technology with an even better tube. So what exactly defines the differences between Generation 1, 2, and 3 Night Vision Devices? They are graded based on a universal rating system that includes three main criteria.

Night Vision Generations

  1. System Light Gain
    Evaluates how many times a night vision unit is amplifying the available light.
  2. System Resolution
    Reveals information regarding the sharpness and clarity of the amplified image.
  3. Photosensitivity
    Determines the minimum light level and type of light needed in order to function properly.
Image Intensifier Light Amp. 300-900 20,000-30,000 20,000-30,000
System Light Amplification <1,000 <6,000 <6,0000
Resolution in the center, ln/mm 25-30 30-68 45-68
Resolution on the edge ln/mm 15-20 30-68 <45-68

GEN 1 Night Vision

Generation 1 technology dates back to the early 1960’s when a computer was the size of a small house and there were no such things as cell phones. Even though it is the oldest generation it is currently the most popular type of night vision scope in the world.

Gen I Night Vision Devices need some visible light (stars and/or moonlight, combined with extra infrared illumination) to operate and do not function well in extremely dark environments. A 1st generation night vision scope will amplify the existing light several thousand times which will allow you to see clearly see in the dark.


  • affordable prices


  • shorter battery life
  • maximum useful range is about 75 yards depending on the night
  • images are lower resolution with more static/noise and aren’t as bright
  • relies on built-in IR illuminators that are always on. This makes the user very visible to anyone using another night vision device
  • distorted image on outer one third of the field of view, This is known as Geometric Distortion.
  • more susceptible to image distortion caused by excessive light also known as “blooming”.
  • shorter life expectancy
    • Gen 1: approximately 1500 hours
    • Gen 2: around 5000 hours
    • Gen 3 over 10,000 hours.
  • slight high-pitched whine when the unit is on

Heck everyone’s on a budget these days, and it is great to have Gen 1 equipment available for those who need to stay within that budget range. You will be able to do quite a bit with Generation 1 Night Vision Devices at a low cost, which is perfect, whether you are boating, observing wildlife, or providing security for your home. Remember, some night vision is always better than no night vision.

A Quick rule of thumb for telling a Gen. 2 (or 3) from Gen. 1 device:
Turn off the device. If it shuts off immediately – it is a Gen. 2. If the image glows green for some time it is a Gen. 1 unit.

Armasight Nemesis**Pictured: Armasight Nemesis 4x GEN 2+ SD Night Vision Rifle Scope

GEN 2 Night Vision

GEN II optics were developed in the 1970’s. Gen 2 is a huge step up from 1st generation equipment. A good Gen 2 device is a lot closer to Gen 3 performance than it is to Gen 1 performance. They are primarily used by law enforcement or for professional applications. This The cost of a 2nd Gen device is approximately $500.00 to $1000.00 more than the 1st Gen models.


  • longer battery life
  • 3 times longer life expectancy than Gen 1
  • significantly longer lifespan than Gen 1
  • do not require visible light to operate, which allows them to work in extremely dark conditions.
  • a better resolution with images that are much brighter and much more capable of light intensification than Gen 1.
  • useful range is in the 200 yard area depending on model
  • does not rely on built-in IR illuminators that are always on allowing the user the ability to operate “passively” without the necessity of IR illumination.
  • less susceptible to “blooming” or image distortion caused by light
  • much smaller thanks to improved microchannel plate and photocathode plate technology

If your budget can afford to make the step up to Generation 2, it would be worth it. We also have what is referred to as Gen 2+ where some companies further developed the Gen 2 technology. Gen 2+ quality is often compared to be as great as Gen 3.

GEN 3 Night Vision

Currently the state of the art in night vision,GEN III optics have a greatly increased amount of light gaining ability and resolution (clarity) over all other forms of night vision. Generation 3 is the real deal and is it is currently the gold standard in technology. US Military and Special Forces use Gen 2 Autogated. All grades/levels of Gen 3 are outstanding.


  • longest ranges, in the 300 yard plus range depending on model and conditions
  • brighter and sharper image was achieved by adding a sensitive chemical, gallium arsenide to the photocathode
  • longest life expectancy of up to 15,000 hours of use
  • best reliability/durability
  • best low-light performance
  • operating without the use of IR illumination/covert operation allows for even greater ability for completely “passive” operation
  • significant reduction to “blooming”
  • best versatility due to better performance when using with magnification lenses, scopes, camera adapters, and other night vision accessories
  • offering excellent detail and range for night hunting applications


  • vastly more expensive than 1st or 2nd generation
  • cannot be exported outside of the U.S. except by direct permission of the Department of Defense

Gen 3 gives you incredible performance, especially with an autogated tube option, expensive night vision generation, with proper care it will last an extremely long time. If it doesn’t break your budget, you won’t be sorry. We know that the Gen 3 is the best because it is used by US Military and Special Forces.

Now that you understand the differences in Generations, decide what you are going to be using the device for. Don’t over buy a Night Vision Device if you are only using it for casual use. A Gen I may be the best choice. 

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What is Night Vision and How Does it Work?

Did you know that night vision was first used in World War II and came into high use during the Vietnam War?

What is Night Vision?

There are many types of night vision products on the market. Let’s start by defining the difference between Night Glasses and Night Vision Devices (NVD).

Night Vision Glasses are optical devices that allow the operator to have the ability to see images in different levels of light approaching complete darkness. Night Glasses only intensify what light there is already available with purely optical means using large diameter objective lenses only. The most common types of Night Vision Glasses include Night Binoculars (Giant Binoculars that have very large objective lens diameters) and Telescopes that are most likely used for astronomical purposes.

Night Vision Devices (NVDs) are different to Night Glasses because they are not purely optical devices. They are electro-optical devices that comprise of an IR image intensifier tube enclosed in a protective casing. NVD’s amplify whatever existing light there is and send it onto your eyes. You actually don’t look directly through the optics of an NVD as you do with night glasses, you instead look at an amplified electronic image on a phosphor screen. Commonly, NVDs include IR illuminators and telescopic lenses. Examples of these types of NVDs include monoculars, binoculars, rifle scopes, or goggles. Night Vision Devices are commonly used for nocturnal wildlife observation, night vision filming and photography, and marine navigation and security.

How Does Night Vision Work?

The whole process of how Night Vision works is complex and many factors dictate the final outcome. To put it simply, night vision takes small electrical charges not detectable to the human senses and multiplies them to a perceptible level.

Night vision devices such as Night Vision Scopes collect minute particles of light and focus them into an image intensifier. Then the image intensifier converts the particles of light to electrons. Next, the electrons are multiplied and projected onto a green phosphorescent screen. When the multiplied electrons strike the phosphor screen, it causes the screen to emit light that is visible to the naked eye.