Survival Gear: Night Vision Goggles

Night vision goggles can be very helpful in a survival situation.  Whether you are hunting at night, or whether you are defending a retreat, having the right kind of night vision gear can make life much easier and may even save your life.  With good night vision gear, depending on the type used, you can see a person up to 200 yards away on a moonless night.

Night vision devices (NVDs) use two primary types of technology: Thermal Imaging and Image Enhancement. Both types use infrared technology. Infrared light is outside of the visible light spectrum (the spectrum that human beings can see with the naked eye). Night vision devices collect infrared light and then process it into an image that humans can see. I am not going to get into the specifics of how the technology works, but generally, Image enhancement is probably what you are thinking about when you think of night vision gear.  For a more detailed explanation on the different technologies, see How Night Vision Works

Generations of Goggles

Night vision devices fall into categories based on what generation technology they are. Currently, there are generations 0 through 4. Generations 0 and 1 are the so-called “bargain” night vision devices and may be somewhat disappointing depending on what your expectations are. Generations 2 through 4 employ huge steps up in quality and effectiveness and are typically much more expensive. Generation 3 is the type of night vision device used by the U.S. military.

Types Of Night Vision Gear

Night vision devices generally fall into three categories of application: Scopes, Goggles, and Video/Camera. Scopes are usually a single eyepiece that the user holds up and looks through. Goggles are in the binocular form and are designed to be worn by the user and to allow them mobility while seeing in low-light conditions. Video/Camera Night vision devices are primarily used for surveillance.

Legality of Night Vision

You may be wondering if there are any laws or regulations restricting consumer ownership or use of night vision devices. This article is not intended to give legal advice. You should do your own research or seek legal counsel. Do not rely on this article for legal advice. That being said, to the author’s best understanding, there are currently no such federal or state laws except in California. The California statute only applies to use of night vision devices attached to weapons. It states that it is a misdemeanor to possess a device “designed for or adaptable to use on a firearm which, through the use of a projected infrared light source and electronic telescope, enables the operator thereof to visually determine and locate the presence of objects during the nighttime.” (California Penal Code Section 468).