Night Vision Goggles (also known as NVG’s) are one of the most well-known pieces of tactical equipment. They are also prevalent in pop culture, and you most likely have seen them in a spy or action movie.
But night vision goggles are vital and can come in handy for a whole range of hobbies and activities. Whether you are hunting and spotting animals at night or identifying any threats or dangers that can’t be seen by the naked eye, NVG’s will give you the edge.
Before purchasing NVG’s, it is important to educate yourself in the world of night vision goggles.
Our guide will essentially serve as your one-stop for everything you need to know.
We will discuss considerations you must make, how much you can expect to pay for a good quality set, and review some of the best around.
Best Night Visions Goggles, Monoculars and Binoculars - Our Top Picks and Recommendations
The ATN NVG7-2 goggles are a great quality, well built and designed set.
They are compact and lightweight weighing only 1.1 lbs. The build is made from strong and durable metal for long lasting use.
These NVG are made with a top grade 18mm Gen 2+ image intensifier tube, and have a pseudo binocular style design for better observation.
With the built-in IR illuminator, these goggles make seeing in pitch darkness clear with close up illumination. We also recommend purchasing the additional illuminator which helps to see to 200 yards away.
They are also very versatile and can be mounted on the head, to a helmet and also handheld. You won’t have to worry about damage in unpredictable weather conditions as these goggles are both weather and fog resistant.
- Built in IR Illuminator
- Versatile - can be mounted to helmet, head or handheld
- Weather and Fog resistant
- All-glass optics
These popular choice NVG are a durable, high performance night vision device.
They have been designed and manufactured to the night vision standard used by the US military and Army ground troops.
The top quality build ensures reliable viewing even in the most unfavorable of weather or light conditions. You can expect to be able to see objects at distances of over 300 yards, with still clear and crisp images.
With the built-in infrared illuminator with the Total Darkness IR system you will still be able to see regardless of the lack of ambient light. This is all controlled with a flick of a switch, and is easily operated allowing the user to toggle between features.
The low battery and IR indicators are also seen through the field of view.
They are lightweight, waterproof and versatile with multipurpose use and can either be mounted to a helmet, your head or used as a handheld device.
The image produced is crystal clear with generation 3 tubes, ensuring the highest level of clarity. Unlike other NVG there is no distortion with the optics.
The ATN High Performance Night vision goggles also work great with firearms and are very easy to use. They have a battery life of up to 50 hours.
- Generation 3 tubes
- IR illuminator
- Can be handheld, head mounted or helmet mounted
- Built to Military and Army Grade Night vision standards
- Demist shields ensure lens are free of condensation
- scratch proof lens
- Weather resistant
Has indicators that alert you when the IR illuminator is on and when battery is low
These ATN PS-15 WPT Night Vision Goggles are an extremely popular choice and one of the most versatile night vision systems around.
Firstly, they can either be handheld or mounted to your head, helmet or camera/camcorder.
The built-in IR illuminator enhances visions extremely well in no-light conditions.
These goggles use cutting edge night vision technology specifically white phosphor technology (WPT). It’s proven that with the white phosphor, the night vision image appears much more natural than the usual green image. With these goggles you can expect better image contrast, brightness, and degree of detail in the image.
White phosphor NVG also offers better depth perception than green phosphor NVG’s.
This is a seriously good pair of NVG for those looking for professional standard night vision gear.
More Great Features:
- Top quality image intensifier tube
- Lens system provides clear and precise image
- Built-in IR illuminator lets you see in complete darkness
- Brightness control - goggles shut off if exposed to bright light for more than 10 seconds, they will reactivate once moved away from bright light
- Compact and lightweight design
- Depth perception Water and fog resistance
4. ATX BinoX Smart Day/Night Binoculars
ATX BinoX Night Vision Goggles
These smart night vision binoculars tick all the boxes for a top quality night vision device that can also be used as day time binoculars.
ATN have built these binoculars with Ballistic Information Exchange technology so you can communicate with other smart devices.
They have an integrated laser range finder that works to detect the exact distance of your target. This will then send the info to your ATN SMART scope telling you the optimal aiming point. If you don’t own the ATN Smart HD optic, you can alternatively download the Laser Ballistic App and the optimal point of aim will appear here, so you will know exactly where to shoot.
The ATX Night Binoculars also record 1080p videos. Share the videos with family or stream it simultaneously to other devices - there is even no lag!
It also has a built in IR illuminator so you can spot anything with clarity.
At a great price, it produces a clear, crisp image with great quality image and video capture.
I’s battery life lasts over 15 hours.
- Ultra HD Sensor and Ultra HD optics
- Laser rangefinder
- Connect to other smart devices e.g. other ATX products
- Smartphone App
- 1080p video recording and image capture
- Wi-Fi streaming
- Weather resistant
- Built-in Infrared Illuminator
Best Night Vision Monoculars
The OPMOD Gen 3 Night Vision Monocular is another monocular that is widely used by the US Army and Military. The monocular is lightweight and operated with a single battery.
It is a robust built monocular made around the Gen 3 image intensifier tube that also uses variable gain control. Don’t worry about your monocular having a blinding effect when the light changes, the variable gain control ensures the image solution is clear despite changing light.
Again this is a versatile NV device that can be mounted to your head, helmet, weapon on camera.
Optics Planet offers this NVG for an exceptional price that won’t last. Don’t wait to get this great PVS-14 NVG!
- Gen 3 image intensifier tube
- Variable gain control
- Great price and top quality
TRYBE Night Vision Monocular is a top rated monocular that is frequently used by the US Military. It can either be purchased with Gen 2 or Gen 3 image intensifier tubes and both have variable gain control for greater resolution in varying light conditions.
With over 50 hours of continuous use on a single battery, it offers unparalleled capabilities and is one of the best NV monoculars at a great price.
This monocular is also one of the most versatile.It can be handheld, mounted to your head, helmet or weapon or attached to a camera or camcorder.
- Can be Purchased with either Gen 2 or Gen 3
- Variable gain control gives great resolution is varying light
- Can be mounted to Head, helmet, weapon, camera
This ATN PVS14-3 Gen 4 NV Monocular has been designed for top performance in even the harshest and most demanding conditions. They have been designed to the standard of US Military NV systems and are made with the most advanced Generation 4 image intensifier tube.
With the Gen 4 tube and variable gain control, this NV monocular achieves the best image quality and resolution even when light conditions vary. The monocular is also lightweight, compact and versatile.
It can be either mounted to your head, handheld or camera adapted. With it, it comes with a head mount so you don’t have to purchase one separately.
Other great features include that it is waterproof, a battery life of over 40 hours and a two year warranty.
- Gen 3 image intensifier tube for highest image solution
- Comes with built-in IR illuminator
- Based on US military standard design
- Variable gain control for top performance in varying light conditions
- Adaptable with camera and video
- Comes with head mount but can also be handheld
- 40+ hours battery life
- 2 year warranty
The Bushnell Night vision Monocular has been recognised for its unparalleled optical clarity as well as a wide field of view. The monocular uses a high performance glass objective.
Other features include zoom capabilities and long battery life.
The built in IR illuminator ensures clear images in the darkest of environments. Bushnell Equinox monocular offers screen capture and recording so you can record your night vision experiences to watch later!
This night vision monocular at less than $300, is one of the most affordable options you will find on the market. It is the perfect entry-level choice for those looking to enter the night vision world without breaking the bank!
- Image and video capture
- Glass objective
- IR illuminator
- Adjustable IR brightness
The ATN NVM-14 3P Night Vision Monocular is a versatile, multi-purpose and advanced Gen 3 night vision monocular that is great for any activities. Whether you are hunting, trekking, walking, doing night surveillance or military weapons firing, this is an excellent NV device.
This ATN monocular uses top technological advancements in night vision with the single advanced Pinnacle Image Intensifier tube to produce clear images even in utmost darkness.
It is also a small and compact monocular, easy for carrying around. Another feature is that it is submersible to depths of up to 66 feet.
Whether you are law enforcement, search and rescue or a civilian looking to protect themselves, or their property or even for hobbies, this is the ultimate night vision package for you.
- 3rd Generation
- Built in IR illuminator
- Small and lightweight
- Waterproof up to 66 feet
- Comfortable and able to be worn for long periods using included headstraps
Quick Overview of Night Vision Goggles
Night vision goggles are the most popular NV device. They have two lenses for each eye which meet together to give you a single view.
The build is either a two eye piece that views through a single image tube or a dual eyepiece with dual image tubes.
Goggles are the preferred choice for those looking to be active whilst wearing them. It gives you a hands free experience and allows you to do various tasks such as using or carrying a weapon, navigating your surroundings or protecting yourself. They also offer the best depth perception.
Night vision goggles are also the easiest to adjust to when you are a first time user.
Night Vision Monoculars
Night vision monoculars are arguably the most versatile NV device. These are the single eye night vision devices that can be handheld or mounted to your head via a helmet or a halo mount. Many generations can also be mounted to rifle or spotting scopes, mounted directly onto a weapon or even a camera or camcorder.
These have the benefits of being lighter and more compact and easier to store and transport.
Some benefits of the night vision monocular is that it gives you the ability to maintain regular sight of the eye that isn’t using the monocular. The US Military and Marines opt for monoculars over goggles as it gives wearers between awareness in situations. The one eye nature gives you the ability to switch back and forth between wearing if you get eye strain.
They also have more cheaper options if you are on a budget,
A downside of the monoculars is that it does take some time getting used to.
Mounting Night Vision Goggles
Night vision goggles are able to be used in a number of ways. Most people opt to mount NVG’s to a helmet. This is ideal as it frees your hands to be able to do other tasks whilst still getting night vision.
Helmet mounts are the most convenient way. These are secure and hold the NVG in place using the NVG mount that comes with most helmets.
The types of helmets you could mount your NVG on include ballistic helmets and bump helmets (Regular tactical helmets).
If you are after ballistic helmets to mount your NVG on, you can check out our comprehensive guide here.
Other kinds of mounts include head mounts (Halo mounts). These mounts are made of a webbing to keep the goggles held securely over your eyes. They use a retention system without the actual helmet.
This is ideal if you want to mount these goggles without the need to wear a helmet.
Head mounts are cheaper but the downside is we found them to be less comfortable than a helmet.
Alternatively you could also use them handheld or mounted on a tripod. You would choose this option if you didn’t need your hands for other things.
Common Uses for NVG or Night Vision Monoculars
Night vision goggles have a variety of uses. Here are some of the most common:
Night vision goggles are widely used for tactical use by the US military, police and law enforcement and preppers. By using these goggles in tactical situations you are immediately given the upper hand at night or in low-light. Patrolling your surroundings is now easier, and you will be able to see your threat before they see you!
Using Firearms at Night
Whether you are using your firearms for hunting at night or self defense, having NV ensures you are safe. They give you the ability to firstly see your target with clarity and be able to judge distances far better than with the naked eye.
Using your NVG in conjunction with an IR laser sight gives you a clear aiming point too.
Self Defense and Home Protection
NV is now more than ever used for protecting your home. Setting up a NV device or using goggles can help you better protect your property.
This is vital if you live on country property or property with lots of land and acreage. You can use it to protect your animals (if you have them) or simply defend your land from intruders.
Hobbies like Fishing or Wildlife Spotting
NVG are used for hobbies such as hunting, fishing or wildlife spotting at night. Depending on what you are doing and the nature will determine the price of your NVG for hobbies. If you are simply looking to spot animals in the backyard, a cheaper pair will suffice.
If you are hunting, you ideally want to look for a good quality pair with extra features. For hunting features with zoom levels are great for better vision so you can get a more accurate shot. If you are wildlife spotting and looking for a particular animal, NVG with image capture are great for getting that golden shot.
Night Vision Goggles History
NVG’s have been used prior to the Second World War, and were invented by the Germans. When they were first made they were these huge devices that required a mount to stand on. These large devices are known as ‘Generation Zero’ equipment, and were infrared devices that had the ability to increase existing light by 1,000 times.
During the Vietnam War, night vision equipment was commonly used. Soldiers were stationed out in the jungles for days on end and required night vision devices to identify the enemy. Night vision technology has evolved to what is known as ‘Generation One.’ These don’t use infrared technology and so didn’t work too effectively when the Moon was not out.
Generation One is not used anymore and doesn’t have any modern day benefits.
Then night vision technology evolved into ‘Generation Two’ in the 1980’s. Resolution increased significantly and these devices were very effective for night vision in low light environments. This is a large improvement from Generation One.
The ability to see in low light with Generation Two was due to the new detection plate in the image intensifier tube.
Generation Two technology is still frequently used today, and is in cheaper night vision goggles.
Generation Three came next in the 1990’s and this increased resolution from generation two by 30%. There were no significant technological advances other than a different kind of gas used in the image intensifier tube.
Generation Three Night vision technology is what is used by the US Military. It is what is widely available on the market, and Our Recommendation.
Generation Four is the latest advancements in Night Vision device technology. They are effective for use in both high and low light level regions. Previously, night vision devices weren’t successful in transitioning between low and high lighting, and would distort vision.
With Generation Four technology, the wearer is able to notice a seamless transition between low and high light environments without experiencing the disconcertment and distortment if for example someone turns on a light.
The downside to this technology is that it is more expensive. If you have the budget, this is a good choice as it uses the state of the art advancements.
Gen 4 will cost you upwards of $5000.
Our guide primarily includes our favorite and the most widely produced and used technology - Generation Three.
Summary of the Generations
- Ideal choice for hobby games like paintballing and airsoft
- You have the ability to survey an area but recognition is much harder
- Image quality is low and the range of view is small
- Low battery life
- Cheapest option
- Has a range of about 75 yards
Choose if: you are using it for recreation or fun or you are buying a learners pair to familiarize yourself with NV before upgrading
- Minimum generation that should be used for shooting, driving or hunting
- Vision range of up to 200 yards and has light amplification of up to 30 000 times
- Works well with less ambient light
- Better battery life
Choose if: using for casual shooting or lower level hunting
- First level of tactical usage - used by the military
- Has great image resolution and recognition
- Best battery life
- Object recognition of up to 300 yards away
- Top of the range for NV devices
- Most expensive option
- Highest quality optics and clearest image
- Best detection and recognition
Choose if: Looking for a top quality pair for many uses such as using for tactical purposes
Types of NVG’S
Both NV goggles and monoculars are available for purchase. Goggles have the two lenses/tubes to be used with both eyes whilst a monocular has one lens for one eye vision.
You would choose a monocular over goggles if you want to be able to see with just one eye, or if you are on a budget as these are the cheaper option. You can attach both monoculars and goggles to your helmet.
With monoculars you can also attach them to your gun or just use them by holding it.
Parts of NVG
Night vision Image Intensification Tubes
These tubes are made from a variety of materials such as plastic, rubber or hybrid materials.
Prices of night vision devices are largely decided based on the quality of the image intensification tubes. They are not manufactured by many companies and even few of these produce top quality tubes. The tubes are sold to the companies who will use their own housings and other features to make the final night vision device product.
These tubes used in night vision devices sold by US brands are almost all produced in the USA. Few successful and good quality tubes are produced overseas as of now.
How Much does Night Vision Goggles Cost?
Night vision goggles can range anywhere in price from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.
If you are a civilian looking for NVG the common prices range from $300 to $5000 for top of the range.
Our list seeks to include the best night vision goggles for the price, and we will include affordable picks as spending thousands is not in everyone's budget.
NVG’s can come in two types: Thermal Imaging and Image Intensification
Thermal imaging works in night vision devices by detecting infrared technology that objects, humans or animals emit. They don’t require the presence of light to work effectively, and they work great in absolute darkness.
Image intensification as we touched on previously, uses the presence of light and increases it by tens of thousands of times! This is all done through different technologies and chemicals in the devices. The sheer amount of times that the light is intensified, can produce a blinding effect.
If you are interested in learning about the science, we will give a brief overview into how the technology works for light intensification.
Light is made of particles known as photons of a whole array of colors.
When the photons enter the tube they hit what is known as a photocathode. This turns photons to electrons.
The photomultiplier amplifies electrons. When the electrons pass through the photomultiplier, it produces more electrons.
These electrons that have passed through the photomultiplier then meet a phosphor screen.
This produces small flashes of light.
This is what creates an amplified and brighter image of the original surroundings (regular vision with the naked eye.)
Other Considerations Why Buying Night Vision Goggles
Recognition and Detection
Recognition and detection are two terms you should be familiar with.
Detection is the more broad scope of vision. If you can detect something that is 200 yards away, you will be able to detect a human, or animal’s presence.
If the recognition range is 200 yards that will mean you can spot the features. For example you will be able to in detail recognise the type of animal, breed of dog etc.
So detection is seeing the presence and outline and recognition is the ability to see the key features of the object.
Size and Weight
Size and weight should particularly be paid attention to if you will be mounting your NVG to a helmet. You won’t want it to be too heavy or unwieldy as this will be uncomfortable and not ideal for hours of wear.
Most night vision goggles available on the market will hover around or below 2 pounds. Choosing one in this weight range is ideal for comfort.
Size is also important especially if you will be using a weapon such as a firearm whilst wearing the goggles. Choosing goggles too bulky in this case will make it extremely difficult to have a cheek weld. Purchasing an optic mount that is high rise may be your best bet.
Gain is a term meaning the ability for the goggles to work effectively during periods of varying levels of light.
An object with a high gain will be able to increase visibility and brightness of an object even when it is very dark.
High gain is a great feature as well as gain control. Gain control works to achieve uncompromized image resolution when light is varied to give you clarity no matter what.
Weather resistance is an important factor with night vision goggles. Cheaper night vision goggles are typically not great in rain as they aren’t as robust and are more fragile. They will be able to resist some rain but downpour may break them.
More advanced and expensive models will be built with far more strength and robustness, and will be able to work in all conditions.
Build and Strength
Build and strength of NVG is vital especially if you will be using them in unpredictable conditions. This is obviously something that increases the more you pay.
Higher end models of goggles will use aluminium bodies and housing. On the other hand cheaper models are usually made of plastic. Cheaper models will likely be destroyed if you drop them and are susceptible to impact.
Likewise the optics of the lens will also be increasingly better with price. A pair of NVG used for hobbies will never compare to the optics generated by a military-grade pair.
Autogated night vision devices are a MUST if you will be operating in conditions where there might be bursts of light. Autogating is automatic brightness control and regulation when faced with sudden or frequent changes in light.
It ensures that the image is still clear and the quality is high despite these changes in light conditions.
Worthwhile NVG Compatible Accessories
Along with your NVG, there are a number of additional accessories that it is worth checking out that can really enhance your experience.
Counterbalance weights can make a HUGE difference when wearing NVG. Mounting NVG to your helmet can add additional weight to the front of your helmet, and you will notice that after wearing it for a long time, your neck can get sore from the uneven distribution of weight.
This is where counterbalance weights come in. Definitely look into getting some of these especially if you will be wearing your night vision goggles for over 1 hour.
Here is our favorite counterbalance sold by Team Wendy:
Infrared or visible lasers are a piece of equipment worth purchasing if you will be utilizing a weapon system with your night vision optics. This is a lengthy topic in itself, so if you are after top infrared lasers you can check out our guide.
Infrared illuminators often come built into your device if you are using NVG or night vision monoculars.
They are great for when there is a lack of ambient light and help you to see. These integrated IR illuminators are ideal for better close range vision and allows the wearer to see objects in more detail.
They are especially useful as they emit light in the IR spectrum and so are invisible to the naked eye. That way you can see your target but they will not be able to see you and you will remain covert.
Some NV devices may not come with a IR illuminator but will be compatible with attaching one.
From years of NV use, we have learnt a thing or two about them! Here are some of our recommendations and tricks that might come in handy.
- Purchase from a reputable and trusted brand!
This will save you a lot of hassle in the short term and money in the long term!
Unfortunately we learned this the hard way by purchasing sub-par NVG when we were new to the game. They didn’t last very long and broke after being dropped from a small height when using them.
There really is no cutting corners when buying NVG. Choose a company that is recommended by lots of buyers and good reviews. You can be reassured that any of the picks on our list will be high quality goggles that will last for a long period of time.
- Practise makes Perfect!
Believe it or not, NVG may take you some getting used to. You may find yourself disoriented walking around and struggling with balance. It is likely you may fall a time or two when using it for the first time.
Practise walking around before using your NVG for real and take it at a slow pace, moving over flat and steady terrain before progressing into the wild.
Frequently Asked Questions About Night Vision Goggles
Are NVG Legal in the USA?
Absolutely! There are no laws in the USA against purchasing and owning night vision devices in any states or territories. All night vision devices and equipment are fully legal.
However most states do have some sort of regulations that dictate use especially when hunting.
To be fully aware of what your state requires ensure you familiarize yourself with these state laws. You can check out your state's night vision equipment laws here.
Can I use my NVG with Glasses?
Yes, NVG are mostly compatible with glasses and have space between the goggles and your head for you to be able to comfortably wear them.
Are NVG compatible with a scope?
NVG are compatible with optics, but require infinite/long eye relief.
These that work the best are red dot optics. Just make sure to check that the optics have night vision compatibility and settings.
What Kind of NVG are Used by the US Military?
The military largely favour night vision monoculars. This is due to the better peripheral vision as well as the lightweight and compact nature. Most of the US Army and Marines use the PVS-14 but the Army is transitioning to AN PSQ-20 monocular too.
What Distances Can I See Using my NVG?
With gen 3 technology, you can expect to be able to see at or around 300 yards. Range of sight largely depends on the ambient light available. So manufacturers will often state the different ranges you can expect to see up to during different moon phases and on overcast nights.
Do my Night Vision Goggles have Thermal Imaging?
A few devices do. These NVG goggles that have thermal imaging have additional optics that detect the infrared light that objects emit.
Our Conclusion of NVG and Night Vision Monoculars
Never has it been more important to add a night vision device to your kit. The device you choose will ultimately be decided by your needs and the specifications you are after.
In our opinion, we recommend purchasing good quality items.
Often when you buy cheap, you only end up replacing it. NVG quality of the image and gear changes drastically with generation. Expect to pay higher amounts as you progress up the generations too.
If it fits with your budget, always look for Gen 3 gear - it is the best NVG you can buy. The clear image, robust build and all the added bells and whistles generally come with Gen 3 NVG. You will also be able to see over 300 yards away.
Some features we wouldn’t go without are devices with built-in IR illuminators, which ensures that even in the darkest conditions you will still get clear images, and water resistance so that your device is well-protected and operates successfully in poor conditions.
They are also either Military-used goggles or built to mimic the standard of military/army-used gear. These will reassure you that they are buying the best quality that will last for years of use. Choosing any of the top picks on our list will guarantee you top NVG or monoculars.
If you are after NVG for casual use and hobbies, you can get away with a cheaper pair and will be just fine with any of the lower generations.
Best of Luck Choosing!