Night Vision generally falls into 3 main categories: Infrared, Thermal and Light Intensification.
All systems except Light Intensification can be suitable for daylight vision as well. Most systems are manufactured in the USA and vary according to quality of image and price point.
Infrared Night Vision
Most Infrared systems operate with an 850 Nm wave length of infrared light which is invisible to the human eye. The infrared light emitted allows the shooter to see anything inside the beam by being received and digitally processed by the weapon scope onto a TV screen image. Some infrared systems operate on higher wave length infrared above 900Nm, as it has been observed that some species can definitely detect lower 850Nm frequencies. Right now some of the best infrared night vision technology gives stunning clarity for the shooter by utilising 4K scanning on full HD screens, similar in clarity to latest television and mobile phone screen technology. Along with the enticing screen image, the latest systems utilise GPS, Wi-fi, Bluetooth, Geotagging, recoil activated video, live streaming video and many other options. Price points vary from £450 up to £1,100. View our range here.
Thermal Night Vision
Current Thermal Night Vision embodies great advances over the last 18 months. Thermal imaging systems utilise a technology which look at the differences in temperature for all objects within range of the objective lens. The differential temperatures are then processed, separated and ultimately presented to the shooter in a digital format on a screen similar in quality to infrared screens. The main difference is that the shooter is seeing a mapped target image that can be presented n several different ways for instance green on green, black on white, multi-coloured and many other customisable combinations. At the moment the UK market is tending towards spotting for vermin with handheld thermal imaging systems and shooting with infrared weapon mounted scopes. The feedback I get from regular shooters, farmers and gamekeepers is that it’s much easier to initially find the trouble-makers with thermal handheld but much safer to shoot with infrared. One of the reasons for this is thermal weapon mounted scopes, for the moment at least, do not tend to have the resolution to pick out the odd branch or two if the shooter is in a forest, which may lead to an unwanted riccochet. Price points vary from £1,022 to £8,500. View our range here.
Light Intensification Night Vision
The Light Intensification program was developed by the US military under the name of Starlight for the Vietnam war. This allowed soldiers to have a weapon mounted sighting system which could be used at night by the light of the stars and moon. The system initially worked by gathering photons passing them through a 5,000V electric field called a core, which resulted in a stream of electrons which were cascaded onto a phosphorus imaging plate. Theses systems were called Gen-1 and were at best average by the 80’s things had moved on in terms of development from the US military program and Gen-2 had arrived, various filters and gates had been added in order to meet the US Gen-2 specification and by this time we were looking at some seriously usable light intensification systems. Today Gen-3 systems have been available to the US military for a decade, however the exportation of such systems from the US is highly complicated and in some cases illegal. For now, in Europe we must make do with Gen-2++ Super which is as good as Gen-3, offering the shooter the very best night vision available across all options. At the time of writing the Gen-4 US military spec has still not been met by any contractor despite some seriously ambiguous marketing claims by some companies in the night vision business. Prices vary from £1,800 to £38,000.
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I have recently, under controlled conditions, been able to trial two new handheld combination systems, utilising Infrared and Thermal Imaging in one unit. The systems are still at development stage but may challenge Light Intensification very soon due to their software used to separate the hot object from the Infrared background – one system even outlining the hot object with a white line to an instantaneous species recognition.