2020/2021 seemed to be a year of the night vision renaissance. Following on the widespread sale of white phosphor tubes, these past two years seemed to carry news of new housings every few months. For a long while, the only commercially-available binocular night vision housings were bridged PVS-14s, Sentinel, Mod3 and surplus PVS-15s and most of those were all only available on the grey market.
Nowadays, we're inundated with options including:
- ACT in Black DTNVS
- Nocturn Industries Katana
- Argus BNVD-1431
- ACT in Black DTNVG (discontinued)
- BNVD-1531 *
- PVS-31A *
- PVS-31D (aka F5032) *
- AB Night Vision RNVG *
- AB Night Vision Mod3B *
* denotes ITAR-restricted housings
If you remove the ITAR-restricted housings, you'll notice that you actually aren't left with too many options. So with your hard-earned money, which one should you buy?
As a night vision retailer and builder, here are what we would consider the top 5 things to consider when thinking about your ultimate binocular NV housing:
This one may seem more obvious than most, but reliability is often overlooked and assumed. Most people think that a binocular housing simply houses tubes with 4 wires going from the battery to each tube, but there are a myriad of other electronics present to handle various functions, including, but not limited to:
- independent pod shut-off
- low-voltage/low battery detection
- auto-off when stowed vertically
- multiplying a 1.5V AA battery source for 3V nominal required for tube
- reverse polarity detection/safeguard
- high-light cut-off
- IR illumination
- power balancing with IR illumination on
All of these need to work in harmony to guarantee a high-functioning, reliable goggle system.
Again - another item that can be overlooked. Has the housing you purchased been tested in a professional capacity? Can it withstand a 1.5m drop onto concrete? Will it shut-off when bumped?
While there is very little overlap in the Venn diagram of what SEALS do and the large majority of us do, that doesn't mean we should not want a housing that's waterproof. The last thing you want is to get caught out in the rain, moisture enters your unit and either significantly reduces your tube lifespan or kills your tubes altogether. Has the housing you're considering been tested for submersion? For how deep and for how long?
Do the controls make intuitive sense? Are they a derivative of legacy PVS-14 controls that are as ubiquitous as AR-15 controls? If not, do they at least have a tactile feedback when actuated?
5. QUALITY CONTROL
Does the manufacturer of the housing you are considering have a stringent quality control program in place? Can all of the housings be considered reliable? Has there been reports of issues from other users? Is the manufacturer responsive to feedback?
As 2021 marches on, and other binocular systems continue to be published (eg: Boson MNVG), it's important to be cognizant of these considerations even before you consider the feature set. We'll cover that in a subsequent blog post.
In the meantime, we're currently testing a few other housing options, keeping on top of the considerations mentioned above. Stay tuned.