By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
Something that a growing number of civilians are starting to buy and start fooling around with is night vision systems such as night vision scopes on rifles and carbines (Night Optic Devices or NODs) or full-on night vision goggles (NVGs) replete with helmet and everything.
Formerly a proposition only for the rich, a lot more civilians are starting to add NODs or NVGs to their personal inventory as they have become more affordable.
Granted, plenty are still not “affordable” in the sense that Wonderbread is affordable. The cheap night vision scopes are several hundred dollars; the good ones are easily close to if not well more than a thousand dollars. Dave Ramsey probably wouldn’t recommend it.
Now, if you don’t own any, and were wondering whether or not you should, here’s a modest proposal:
They’re a lot less practical than you’d think. In fact, there’s good reason to believe that they won’t actually do you much good. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get them if you want to or that you’ll never get any use out of them, of course, but instead to say that you’ll get a lot less use of them compared to, say, a police officer or a soldier.
This isn’t, of course, to argue that no one should be able to buy it if they want it; this is to argue that it’s less practical than one might believe for home defense and so on. Not totally impractical in all things, just in this particular application.
A NOD or NVGs is/are a force multiplier in the dark, to be sure. Obviously, this gives you an advantage over a home invader or prowler in the middle of the night. That’s why people buy them, or at least that’s why they’ll say they do.
Herein layeth the problem:
By the time you become aware of a home intruder or prowler, chances are they’ve either breached the entrance to your home or are about to. Unless of course you’re watching surveillance footage 24/7 like in the movie “Sliver” or something, which is just weird.
Also, if you live in a neighborhood where you actually need to, your problem isn’t guns or gear; your problem is you need to move.
The idea here is that unless you live in a multistory home where the entrance is at ground level and your bedroom is on the third floor (common in some larger US cities) you’re going to be only seconds away from contact by the time you’re even aware of what’s happening.
What that means is that you probably aren’t going to have time to don an NVG-equipped helmet and then get your gun up and ready.
A person might counter that a NOD (meaning a night vision scope) might be a better solution for the armed civilian. On paper, there’s something to that, but in reality less practical than you’d think.
First, many NODs are fixed power optics of moderate magnification. The most common models are 3X and 4X, essentially a night vision ACOG.
The problem there is that moderate fixed-power magnified optics are terrible at close range; that’s why the one thing with an ACOG is to also mount an offset red dot for close quarters applications.
Oh, and remember: part of what makes a good scope so worth it is how much light the glass lets in. That cheap NOD with glass made of Chinesium is probably not as good in the dark as you might hope.
That’s why a lot of people say to spend on glass not on rifles.
Just like with a red dot, you also have to keep the battery topped up, and battery life isn’t always great. Most NODs have a run time of a few hours.
NOD and NVG units don’t have a shake-awake system like a Trijicon RMR or what have you, so you can’t leave it on all the time either. This also means at least one more button to push before you can get your pistol or rifle into action.
The point here is that while you can see a whole lot better in a low-light environment, the hitch with night vision gear as part of home defense is that it adds complications that might make them unfeasible for the armed civilian to actually use.
The more gears in the machine, so to speak, the greater the chances are for something to break down.
Then there’s the fact that night vision in the home is nearly pointless because of a handy invention called a LIGHT SWITCH. They’re awesome; I’ve been using them for years. You just flick it up or down and lights come on. You can even get black, FDE or multicam ones that are tactical.
It’s kind of like the idea of a “truck gun,” meaning a carbine or AR pistol or compact shotgun that you keep in a vehicle in case you need to use your concealed carry gun to fight your way to a rifle or shotgun.
It makes a lot of sense for police officers, since they tend to operate in and around their vehicles; running 10 yards to get to a pool weapon (like a shotgun or patrol carbine) is not unfeasible for them unless the suspect is right on top of them.
For the armed civilian, the kind of conflicts that take place in and around their vehicles just aren’t usually conducive to getting said truck gun from its storage location and/or concealment quickly, whereas a concealed handgun is easily accessed and deployed.
Sometimes they are, and there have been road rage incidents where a person deployed a truck gun in chasing off people that were following them with the illest of intentions. Granted, it really only works well in that one, specific situation; a concealed carry pistol works pretty much everywhere you need a firearm for self-defense because you can have it on you.
Point being, it’s a great idea in theory, but in the real world is not as practical as you might think.
Granted, that isn’t the only use for night vision.
In much of the United States, feral hogs are treated as an invasive species and the shooting hours imposed on the hunting of most game are not when it comes to the unreconstructed sus scrofa laying siege to much of the countryside. NVGs or NODs are completely fair game.
Of course, you can also just take a look around at night. If camping in a primitive area, especially if predators are about, it’s a good idea to have them in case you need to answer the call of nature.
And so on and so forth; a person could find plenty of practical uses for night vision if they wanted to.
However, as part of home defense or something along those lines it’s a good idea at face value, but not the most practical in the real world.
Sam Hoober is a Contributing Editor to AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.