Basics of Night Vision Rifle Setup


By Tim M, ET Gear Co

Choosing an Optic for the Task

When selecting an optic for your rifle, there are a few things that you must consider. First, optic clarity is a big factor when deciding what optic you want to run. We suggest the Aimpoint Comp M5 as the go-to dedicated night vision optic. The clarity of the glass offers the best possible solution when shooting passively. Passive shooting is when you shoot through your standard rifle optic instead of depending on your laser for target acquisition. This is a great method if you need to make a very accurate shot or you do not want to produce an IR signature that can be seen. Some other great alternatives are the Eotech EXPS 3 and the Aimpoint T2. All three of the previously mentioned optics offer multiple night vision settings. Having this feature can be very useful if you need to take a more precise shot without wanting to create an IR signature from a laser. Having the NV setting is a nice feature, but it is not necessary. Even red dots that don’t have a night vision setting are still capable of passive shooting, typically on their lowest setting.

Aimpoint Comp M5

Choosing an Optic Mount

Now that you have selected an optic, the next consideration for the optic is a quality mount at a reasonable height for passive shooting under night vision. Having a taller mount is preferred because it offers you clearance over your stock, so you can align your tubes with the red dot without having to augment the way you shoot and shoulder the rifle. Although the mount height provides a more comfortable shooting posture, it isn’t necessary to be able to engage targets. If you are running a standard height mount, you may just need to learn slightly different weapon positioning in order to efficiently get the tubes aligned with the red dot. If you are running an Aimpoint, we highly recommend the Unity FAST mount as it offers a great height for both daytime and nighttime shooting. If you need backup irons that are integrated into the mount, we would also highly recommend the ANVL UKON 1.93” T2. Finally, if you are running an Eotech, or other lower-thirds or absolute witness optics, the brand new modular Mjölnir riser from ANVL.

Aimpoint Comp M5 with Unity FAST

Choosing a Laser Device

When setting up your night vision rifle, the laser and illuminator are probably the most important selection you will make. You may be wondering why you would need an illuminator if you have night vision, but the answer is simple. Night vision requires ambient light; on really dark night or in any dark place you will need to throw out some sort of illumination for your tubes to feed off. We often get asked if full power lasers are worth it for civilians, and that isn’t really the right question. We say this because when it comes to full power devices, the illuminator is where they earn their keep. Unfortunately, the FDA has restricted the sale of full power devices to civilians, but you are legally allowed possess them. The major issue you may run into if you are a civilian with a full power laser, is being able to warranty them if something were to break. If you are a civilian and worried you might break a laser that you can’t get fixed, we would suggest you pick up a MAWL C1+ from B.E. Meyers. The MAWL offers incredible performance, and is still 100% warrantied by B.E Meyers. Our favorite laser that we have tested is the Wilcox RAIDx. This laser is feature rich and offers many capabilities that set it apart from every other laser on the market. The RAIDx is center over bore meaning you do not need to hold a horizontal offset when using the laser. This is a really nice feature and while not exclusive to the RAID, it is by far the best performing center over bore laser on the market. Some other great lasers are the NGAL from L3Harris and the MAWL DA from BE Meyers. These are full power lasers, and again, unserviceable if broken as a civilian.

Wilcox RAIDx mounted at the 12 O’clock of the handguard

Choosing a White Light

Selecting a white light is probably the easiest decision you can make when setting up a rifle for shooting with nods. There are only a few applications where you would need to introduce white light when you are running NODs. Application 1, someone shines a white light at you. If someone were to hit you in the face with white light, you would need to counter them with your white lite in order to accurately engage. They are creating a photonic barrier that you would need to overcome. Photonic barriers are powerful light emission that prevents the penetration or dilutes the penetration of weaker light sources. Ex. High beams on the highway match each other and help prevent the drivers from completely being overpowered by one another. An off-road vehicle with high candela and high lumen Baja styled lights were to challenge a traditional vehicle high beam; the high beam would offer zero photonic barrier resistance. This is why off-road lights are illegal to operate to traditional paved roads. Application 2, you have already cleared a structure and flipped your NODs up. If you have already gotten to this point, then it is more of a SSE scenario and your white light is just used to search. We recommend the Surefire Pro series lights as they offer a very modular mounting solution for butting up your light to your laser to reduce as many snag points as possible.

Surefire Scout Pro Dual Fuel next to a Wilcox RAIDx

Other Elements to Consider

Some other elements you should consider when getting your rifle all setup is a good adjustable sling. We recommend the ANR Design Link Sling as it offers very good adjustments, as well as, a removable shoulder strap, which can be very useful when your rifle is weighed down by all of your necessary attachments. We also recommend a silencer, not as much for the sound suppression but more for flash reduction that good cans offer. Many things that we have mentioned above are our personal preference and you really should set up your rifle the best way it will work for you. There are many different ways that you could up your rifle for night vision, the ways outlined above are the best way we choose to set up our guns. This has been honed through years of buying various products that ended up in the spare parts bin, or failed during our hog hunting experiences.

Opscore FAST SF helmet with G24 and PVS-31As

Thanks again for taking the time to read this article.

Tim M, CEO and Owner of ET Gear Co.

You can find most of these products as well as night vision on our website!
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