First off, there’s no such thing as cheap night vision that’s worth having. But that’s not to say there isn’t good deals on good night vision either. If you do your research and take the time to determine what you actually need, I think you will find that night vision is a bit more affordable than most think.
I used night vision and thermal a good deal during my time in the Marines. And while I knew fully well the great force multiplier that it is, life has a way of dictating priorities and $4,000 for night vision was a hard pill to swallow. But I finally decided earlier this year that enough priorities had been put into place and I could finally make that jump.
I was tempted for a minute to look into other options to save some money, but as I researched them I quickly realized that only a generation 3 PVS-14 would work for me. Buy once, cry once. This is an heirloom quality piece of equipment we’re talking about here.
There are a multitude of different PVS-14’s out there, ranging from about $3,000 upwards to $4,500 or more. The price increase is typically due to better and better image intensifier tubes.
You see, not all PVS-14’s are equal. The image intensifier tube is what sets one apart from the other. Think of it like the difference between different versions of the same model of car. Same car overall, different trim and engines though.
As I said earlier, I had a lot of time using them during my time as a Marine infantryman, but I had no idea how the ones I used back then and the current production ones compared. Was I using something similar to the lower priced models or the higher priced?
I knew of a smaller gear company that dealt in night vision, Critical Gear and Tactics and I contacted them to discuss the differences in the different models that were available. I asked them things like “What is the difference between this $3,000 model and this $3,500 model?” “What is the difference between white phosphor and green?”
I told them I was looking for a work horse unit that I could use while instructing and that compared to the night vision I was issued. I’m not the kind of guy that has to have the best of the best so I can brag on Instagram. I need good tools though, and I was willing to spend the extra money to ensure I made the right choice.
Based on my criteria, they quickly recommended the Photonis Echo PVS-14. I was pretty surprised by this since it was actually the cheapest model I was looking at. A dishonest salesman might have recommended the more expensive one to take advantage of me, but they didn’t. I really admire that level of integrity.
So trusting their recommendation I ordered my device and was pleasantly surprised to learn there was only a 3-4 week lead time. It shipped quickly and I had tracking immediately. I was even further impressed when my device arrived 20 days from ordering it – ahead of schedule.
It was still a long 20 days though, full of questions on whether or not this lower cost unit would provide the kind of performance I was hoping for.
When the unit arrived the first check I made was to the data sheet that comes with each unit. Each unit is tested and rated based on it’s performance. An important data point is the Figure of Merit. This piece of information is used to compare all PVS-14 devices based on their actual performance. A FOM of 1800 is the bare minimum to be military spec. I was pleasantly surprised to find mine had an FOM of 2186! This was comparable to the FOM on much higher priced units.
I immediately began testing the unit in as many conditions as I could. What I quickly realized was this unit far surpassed anything I had been issued, even though my old unit was Gen 3. I was of course thrilled by this. I took the unit out into the countryside on a moonless, cloudy night. This was the Montana countryside mind you, with nothing but a few yard lights within miles of me to provide any illumination. This would provide a very real test of what I could expect from this unit.
The performance was truly breathtaking. The best way I can describe it is to take a picture with your phone or camera and convert it to black and white. It’s that clear. Even spotting sagebrush and small trees on hillsides miles away was very easy to do.
I feel that I made a very good decision at the right time and I greatly appreciate the advice and honesty of the salesmen at Critical Gear and Tactics. This piece of equipment fills a void that was in my equipment and capabilities.
I called to tell them how pleased I was and they offered to give me a discount code to share with my readers. By using the code “Badlands” you can get a nice discount on your own Photonis PVS-14. I feel confident about sharing this and I wouldn’t if I didn’t think the product is great and the company trustworthy.