Night vision gear is one of the most challenging items for hunters to purchase. It is a niche market so it is not as readily available as is most other hunting gear. Finding an outfitter that sells a wide selection of night vision equipment can be trying. It is even more difficult to get a solid feel for a device’s performance because a traditional store setting doesn’t provide a suitable dark environment where you can test it out. Also, since it is a smaller market, it is unlikely that you will find a sales rep who is knowledgeable about night vision gear. Unfortunately, the result is that many hunters tend to stay away from night vision devices or, worse yet, make an expensive mistake when purchasing. Below you will find the most common night vision buying mistakes along with ways that you can avoid them.
Mistake #1: Defining a budget before understanding capabilities
Let’s face it, night vision technology is cool. Many hunters want to buy night vision because it’s a fun and exciting capability that will enhance their hunting experience. While this certainly is true, night vision devices have a wide spectrum of performance that can be difficult to appreciate without first-hand experience. Because many hunters don’t have much exposure to night vision, they often make the mistake of deciding on a budget before having a clear understanding of how much performance a price range will buy them.
Start by defining the capabilities that you are looking for. For example: if you are thinking of buying a night vision rifle scope, start by pinpointing the type of target you want to identity, at what distance, and under what lighting conditions. Then, you can determine the price range of options that meet your requirements. If there are no options that fall within your budget and you settle for less than you desire, there is a good chance you will end up disappointed with your purchase. It will serve you well to wait until you either have the luxury of a larger budget or prices fall so that you can purchase the device that meets your needs and enhances your hunting experience.
Mistake #2: Failing to thoroughly explore all the options
Many hunters envision a green-scale image when thinking of night vision. This perception is based on standard night vision technology that has been around since the Vietnam War. Although standard night vision can still be a great choice, there two other technologies, digital and thermal, that increasingly appeal to hunters. It is also common for hunters new to night vision to only consider a scope. While a scope can be a solid option, various combinations of night vision monoculars, binoculars, goggles, clip-ons, and IR lasers are also worth exploring.
To discover the best option for you, start by spending a little time to get a basic feel for the pros and cons of each type of night vision technology. Any reputable online retailer should have a comprehensive night vision resource section that will provide sufficient information. Once you better understand the technologies, it will be easier to compare the different types of devices available. With a clearer understanding of the capabilities and limitations of each, you should be able to find the best device and technology combination to meet your needs. Finally, be sure to consider hunting regulations when exploring options as the laws governing night vision device usage vary considerably by state and can have a significant impact on your choice of technology and device type.
Mistake #3: Giving some specs too much credit
Like many technical products, night vision devices have numerous specs available. Specs are a great way to compare different options, but night vision specs are often quite complicated. Specs that manufacturers provide won’t tell the full story about device performance unless you have a comprehensive understanding of exactly what they represent. For example, resolution is the most commonly quoted spec for comparing standard night vision devices. It is normally derived from the center of the image under best case lighting conditions. The problem with comparing resolution is that the real benefit of higher quality devices is better performance in less than ideal lighting conditions and improved image clarity along the image edges. Therefore, simply comparing resolutions numbers doesn’t provide a fair and informed assessment.
Realize that as with any product, you are generally going to get what you pay for. There are reasons that some products cost more than others even if the specs given don’t seem to tell the whole story. If you are going to rely on specs to make a decision, make certain that you are comparing apples to apples. The best thing to do is to talk with a knowledgeable person who can guide you through the numbers and explain the details of what they mean and how they will affect performance. After doing this, you should have a better understanding about what the specs truly indicate and a more accurate picture of the level of performance you can expect.
Night vision is a great addition to any hunter’s gear set. It is sure to impress and add a whole new dimension to any hunting venture. However, since it is not cheap, it very important to make an informed buying decision. You can avoid the common mistakes by starting with a good plan, knowing what questions to ask, and where to find the resources/people who can aid you in this process. By following these three suggestions, you will end up with some great night vision gear that will enhance your hunts for years to come.
Written by Adam Alm
Adam Alm is a night vision and outdoor enthusiast. A former Air Force fighter pilot, Adam gained night vision experience in combat missions and, more recently, with commercial night vision products. Originally from state of Washington, he now owns and operates ViperEyes.com.