Before I ever joined the military, I had learned about “Cat-Eye” tape, because I owned a Vietnam era Steel helmet with cover and camouflaging band. I thought they were pretty cool, but never realized all the different applications they had in a low or no light environment, especially a tactical one.
While in Basic Training, I learned how important “Cat-Eyes” could be while on a patrol in low light. Fast forward to my first unit, and having “Cat-Eyes” on the back of our patrol caps, in a certain pattern, was a requirement. Over the years, during field exercises, I learned of several other uses that “Cat-Eyes” have in a tactical environment, whether it’s for identification, or aiming your weapon.
As shown at the beginning of the post, “Cat-Eyes” on the back of a patrol member’s headgear is important for maintaining as much space as possible between you and the patrol member to your front. This “Tactical” spacing need at night is no less important than during the day. Space between patrol members, generally mitigates the wounding of multiple patrol members from the same weapon system at the same time (example: grenade).
As the students in my recent Rural Buddy Team Essentials Course found out in class this past weekend, “Cat-Eyes” on the back of headgear can give you a huge advantage in keeping track of the other patrol members, especially when you don’t have mountable passive night vision on your head.
When cutting your “Cat-Eye” tape, it is very easy to keep the dimension square and symmetrical, due to the grid pattern printed on the back of the tape.
A second use for “Cat-Eye” tape is mounted to the backside of the front sight post on most defensive style long guns. “Cat-Eye” tape has a back that peels off, and it will stick to most surfaces, as long as they are cleaned of with alcohol or other type of surface cleaner.
After sticking the “Cat-Eye” tape to the front sight post, I apply some of the heavy duty clear “Gorilla tape” over the surface of the “Cat-Eye” tape, affixing it more sturdily to the front sight post. Below are examples of this addition to two different weapons systems, a Mossberg 590, and an AR-15.
As shown above, I cut a point on the top of the “Cat-Eye” post, and mount it directly under the center of the front sight post. Aiming your weapon is quick and easy at night, considering all you need to do is look over your rear sight or optic, or through the ghost ring if you have one, and place the “Cat-Eye” point directly below your intended target point.
A third use for “Cat-Eye” tape that I will illustrate here, has to do with identifying your gear, in this case your rucksack. If you consolidate your gear in a central location in a base camp or patrol base, being able to ID your bag without using any light can be important. I know where all the gear is in my ruck at all times, but knowing which one is mine in a group is easier this way.
The only thing needed to do this is a flat part of the frame that is not covered by fabric, and does not rest against your back. Most external frame packs, like the US ALICE pack can easily have this done to it.
First, cut to a length that is long enough to contain your name or callsign. Next, locate the spot you want to affix it to. Write what you need to on the tape, then cover the writing with the clear “Gorilla Tape”, so you don’t smear the permanent marker ink when affixing it. Finally, peel off the “Cat-Eye” tape backing, then place it on the frame.
Another mod you can make to your ruck is to put small “Cat-Eyes” (similar in size to your headgear “Cat-Eyes”) on the back edge of the ruck’s top flap, for the same reason you use it on your headgear.
The final mod I will show, has to do with a bunker with solid overhead cover (generally, a bunker has this) and no readily available firing ports. Another place the technique can be used is in the firing ports of a fighting position.
For the first instance, we’ll look at use in a bunker. I have a set up that uses a 4x Russian periscope. I have a piece of black PVC pipe, slightly bigger in diameter than the periscope, and on that pipe, I have a piece of “Cat Eye” tape that has the four cardinal azimuths ( listed in BOLD below) across the bottom of the tape, and the 45 degrees minor headings across the top of the tape (0, 45, 90, 135, 180, 225, 270, 315). These azimuths are reversed due to the orientation of the periscope. Finally, the “Cat Eye” tape is covered with the earlier mentioned “Gorilla Tape”.
I take the black pipe and put it through the roof of the bunker, orienting the illustrated azimuths with a compass. Then I stick the periscope up through the PVC pipe, so it protrudes through the top of the bunker. Obviously, after doing this, we go outside to make sure the periscope doesn’t stand out, and if needed, we add camouflage. This is also coordinated with a range card within the bunker.
In a similar manner, you can write azimuths or descriptions on “Cat Eye” tape, and tack them up in your fighting position firing port. This can be an easy, quick reference for yourself, or to orient a newcomer to the “What’s what” and where outside of the fighting position.
I hope this has given you some ideas for low tech solutions to a number of low light, non passive night vision equipped problems.
"Parata Vivere"-Live Prepared.