We asked one of our customers to share his first hand experience with different nightvision setups he has tried over the years. And here it is!
What equipment are you using?
I’m currently using an EOC N-14 GP NV monocular bridged with a Flir Breach PTQ136 thermal imaging unit. These units are mounted on a Team Wendy Exfil LTP helmet which is covered with an Agilite Tactical helmet cover & counterweight pouch combo. The mount system consists of a Cadex Defence low profile mount combined with a FLIR dual bridge mount. On the side of the helmet theres ‘a Priceton Tec Switch (IR/white) helmet light. On top, there’s a manta strobe replica (not sure of the manufacturer) as well as two backup E-lite ir strobes on both sides of the helmet. On my airsoft gun I have the Holosun LS321G IR light/laser combo, which I use for aiming & lighting poorly lit areas to give my NV monocular a nice boost.
Why NV + Thermal?
In the past I’ve had the chance to get familiar with and use NV monoculars, NV binoculars, weapon mounted NV sights & weapon mounted thermal sights. I’ll break down the pros & cons of the setups I’ve had the chance to get acquinted with as I’ve experienced them.
NV Monoculars & binoculars
In a nutshell, binoculars offer improved depth perception & overall clarity, as both your eyes are looking at a similar image. This will be easier on the eyes and you are less likely to experience headache & eye fatigue. Monoculars are more affordable, more portable, more lightweight & maybe most importantly using a monocular will not take away your natural ability to see in poorly lit conditions completely. You will be still able to see in the dark with your other eye. When using monoculars you’re pretty much completely dependant on the binoculars. Aiming & shooting can be done either with a NV compatible sight, such as the HS403C, or the way I prefer, an IR laser sight such as the Holosun LS series.
Weapon mounted NV sights & weapon mounted thermals
In airsoft, I see very little point in using a weapon mounted NV sight. These units are bulky & often come with a level of magnification, so your FOV may be limited. The only way I see any point in using a weapon mounted NV sight is if you also have a helmet mounted NV setup and you dont want to use an IR-laser to aim & shoot. Weapon mounted thermal sights share the cons of the weapon mounted NV sights for the most part. They’re bulky, expensive & offer a narrow field of view. The one upside of a thermal sight of course is the ability to spot heat signatures if you have a line of sight.
Helmet mounted thermal + NV combo
In my experience the combination of helmet mounted thermal + NV is the best option if you are operating in forest areas where it’s easy to stay concealed. If your target is well camouflaged to the surroundings & stays immobile, it is very difficult to spot them even with a very high end NV binocular unit. Just think of a ghillied up opponent during the daytime; you may not be able to spot them even if you stare right at them. The same applies to low light situations & NV units. The thing people often ask me is how subjecting your eyes & brain to two different images affect you. I personally have no problem running the setup even for an extended period of time. I can tell my brain to focus on either of the images at a time, which makes using the setup practically seamless. I’ve read some people have a hard time adjusting to the images, but then again, some report they can even merge the two images as one to have basically one clear image. This is all higly personal as all our brains are different.
To sum up, for urban areas with very little to no foliage, I’d propably run a dual tube NV setup. The image clarity & unhindered depth perception is the key here. However, in airsoft, you often find yourself in areas with vegetation. This is where the NV & thermal combo is just simply superb. The ability to spot even well camouflaged players is uncanny. The use of a thermal imager also pretty much completely removes the burden of spotting enemies off of your NV unit, meaning you can do well with even a lower quality unit, as you’re only depending on the NV unit to navigate around & aim.
Where to get this stuff?
I’ve acquired most of the stuff listed here from Falconclaw. As I was plummeting deeper in to the world of NV & Thermals (thanks @peterjfitzgerald ;D), I found their customer service & knowledge in the products they offer invaluable. A Big thanks to Falconclaw!