I was given a Gen1 NOD for Christmas. It's defective. I'll be returning it, not exchanging it. Without an IR illuminator, it works slightly less well than my natural night vision.
After a mere five minutes of acclimation, I was able to see better without the NOD than with it on a clear, moonless night. I live deep in the country. The only ambient light was starlight and the reflection of Venus in the East.
The Gen 1 stuff is pretty worthless. You want at least Gen 2. Or better yet, CGT, which is between Gen 2 and Gen 3. I have a 4X ATN CGT which is very nice. Not quite as sharp as my ATN ATN PVS-7 Gen 3 goggles, but very nice. I found the CGT 4x for $1395. It comes with an IR illuminator, but doesn't really need it.
Night vision is still one of the few things that Americans can make better than anyone else on Earth .
Most of the cheap Gen 1 stuff on the market is Russian, and it's the worst crap they can crank out for hard Amercian dollars.
It'll cost you some bucks, but if you want NV that actually works, try to buy American.
Places like What A Country will sell you a used surplus Gen 2 AN/PVS-4 scope for fairly cheap. It will probably be ex-Israeli, we sold them a bunch of PVS-4 scopes. It will be Gen 2, thoroughly scratched up surplus, but it will work well. The US Mil is still transitioning AN/PVS-4 scopes from Gen 2 to Gen 3, so a surplus Gen 2 PVS-4 with a good tube can be considered to be as good as some the the US Mil still has.
Even a surplus US Gen 1 AN/PVS-2 will be better than most of the Russian garbage.
There are a couple of European manufacturers that can make good quality Gen 1 and Gen 2 image tubes. Photonis-DEP have a good reputation for Gen 1 and Gen 2 image tubes. I have a Delft Optics (now part of Photonis) Oldelft HV 5x80 starlight scope, 1st gen, that is pretty good. You can search for these scopes, they are pretty common as surplus due to recent adventures in the sandbox.
NV is a big investment, and probably the best way to go is to buy from a small specialist shop. I highly recommend Ed Wilcox http://wilcoxeng-res.com/index.html . Give him a call, tell him what you want to do, and he will tell you what works and what doesn't. He can hand build you a scope that will work. I have no involvement with his shop except for having done business with him, and he does excellent work at very fair prices.
Make sure you check your local laws. Some states/localities are not NV night hunting friendly.
Also, just be advised that it's tough to use NV on varmints if you need a spotlight or laser to make it work. More often than not the varmint will notice the light, figure out that something is wrong, and bolt before you can get off a shot. GI9
Also, and I hate to have to say this... There is a lot of BUYER BEWARE in the NV market. There are unscrupulous businesses that will sell you a Gen 2, "Gen 2+", Gen 3, or even "Gen 4" scope (which doesn't exist) when what you are actually getting is a crap Russian Gen 1 image tube. They get away with this because most people don't have the training or experience to know the difference.
That's why I recommend someone like Ed Wilcox, who will tell you exactly what you are really getting, and assemble and test it himself. GI8
Maybe. Today is the day if you want poor quality Russian.
You gotta keep in mind, good quality NV is cutting edge, NASA-level stuff. That's why there are only two companies, both American, that can even manufacture a Gen 3 image tube. It's that difficult. (ITT and Northrop-Grumman. Both leading edge high-tech companies...) GI8
I have some ITT Gen 3 NV equipment, and you have to see it to believe it. It's like magic. You can see everything, like a sunny summer day, in pitch dark. That kind of technology just isn't cheap.
The modern stuff is good. It's just like broad daylight, except everything is shades of green. And, you have to develop some other cues to get some depth perception. You also have to learn to move your head to scan to make up for the limited field of view.
When I get new toys that I've been wanting for awhile, I tend to get like a kid at Christmas. When I got my PVS-7's I could hardly wait for it to get really dark to try them out. I walked around for about 5 minutes, but was a little disappointed with them until I realized I had left the lens cap on!
I was always told that you needed to turn them on for about 5 minutes a month minimum for the tubes to have a long life. Nothing in the manual says that and I really don't know for sure. But, I've always been afraid to NOT do it. If I'm outside the U.S., my brother get the job.
If you are looking for a cheap alternative to Gen 3 night vision and only want to spend a couple hundred dollars than stay away from Gen 1 and just get a illumination system like the ND-3 already suggested.
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