Night Vision Scope Attachment Pros and Cons
Night hunters, such as those who chase coyotes, hogs, and other non-game animals, often benefit from the use of a night vision scope attachment. But, like anything, these come with a set list of pros and cons. Let’s dig into some of the advantages and disadvantages that these tools have to offer, and other pertinent information that follows.
Common Platform Setups
Before diving into the specifics with night vision scope attachments, it’s important to determine if this is for you, or not.
Generally, these attachments are crafted for AR10 platforms, which are generally .308 caliber or larger or AR15s, which are typically .223 (5.56). Both will have a rail atop the barrel, though.
Regardless of which platform you use, most firearms are primarily used during the day, not at night. So, it’s important to consider this when setting up a rig. You must decide if it will be a nighttime-only firearm, or if it will be used during daylight and low-light situations. This will determine what type of night vision scope attachment you go with.
Night Vision Scope Attachment Style Options
There are numerous styles on the market, but some tend to be more popular than others.
“There are a bunch of options, but two are really worth talking about,” said Sean Kirk of Photonis Defense. “One is the static in-line optic where you are mounting it in front of or behind the scope on the rail. It’s static.”
Basically, what that means is “if it’s on the weapon, it’s on until you decide to take it off”.. That itself can be a negative thing, especially if you plan to use the firearm during the day. It can be a hindrance because you can’t remove it without losing zero.
“You’re stuck with night vision unless you completely remove it,” Kirk said. “Then, if you take it off and put it back on, your zero might be close, but will likely be off some.”
But what might seem like a disadvantage to some is exactly why others love it.
“It’s there. It’s in-line. It’s zeroed,” Kirk said. “Typically, it’s a bit hardier.” So, if you’re moving through brush, and it contacts things, you don’t have to worry about it quite as much.”
“Then you have the flip-mount that flips out of line or back into place,” Kirk said. “But you want to make sure the one you’re using is robust, because you want to be able to flip it in and out and still be zeroed. Some options have loose tolerances. That’s why you want a name-brand option.”
This system generally operates by clipping onto the rail in front of the daytime optic. Of course, the advantage this style offers is that it flips in and out. This makes it much easier and quicker to change between daytime and nighttime use. That said, the very nature of this advantage produces its disadvantage, which as Kirk mentioned, makes it inferior at holding zero.
Field Use Experience
Great Days Outdoors Publisher Joe Baya is an experienced hunter, and he’s used the Photonis clip on night vision scope offerings extensively.
“People who are budget minded oftentimes want to get something they can use as a night vision monocular that can be attached in front of their scope,” Baya said. “There are a lot of options out there with mixed results on how they work in the field.
“I really like this setup because you can quickly detach the monocular, and use it as a monocular,” he continued. “You can reattach it quickly and use it as night vision. For guys who have that in mind, if they want one piece of night vision or thermal that does both, this is a good option.”
Still, what about thermal? Hunters who have used it, generally love it. And those who’ve used night vision tend to love it even more.
“You have more situational awareness,” Kirk said. “With thermal, you’re only picking out hot and cold spots. I’m only one guy, but I’ll pick night vision over thermal any day. Thermal is limiting to me. It’s just to detect heat. Clip on night vision is much more versatile.”
Furthermore, with night vision, you get more quality and performance for fewer dollars.
“If you buy an expensive thermal system, you’ll have to spend in excess of $5,000 or $6,000 on thermal to outperform what you’d get from a night vision monocular that would cost about $3,500,” Kirk pointed out.
Another benefit is that night vision can be used behind glass, whereas with thermal, you cannot see through glass. That said, one downfall to night vision is it’s less effective on darker nights. Baya says he’s hunted some really dark nights and was really impressed with how Photonis night vision monoculars performed. “I’ve hunted on pitch black dark nights and I could still see game, only my distance of vision was limited. For seeing out further distances and hunting on the darkest of nights, I pair my night vision with a quality infrared flashlight. I personally use an offering from Elusive Wildlife Technologies. I’m happy with the way it quickly attaches and detaches to my weapons rail system. It is invisible to game but lights up the night just like a spotlight.”
What he likes almost as much? This setup can double great as a hunting and home defense combo.
“Most guys already have an AR15 for faster capacities and follow-up shots,” Baya said. “With a holographic sight, it’s a great home-defense weapon.” Still, when you clip on that monocular, it quickly becomes a nighttime hunting gun, too.
Overall, Baya seems to concur that a night vision clip on is superior to thermal, and for several reasons.
“The times I’ve hunted with thermal it was with a dedicated thermal scanner or scope,” he said. “I think that, most guys who night hunt, they end up with a weapon-mounted night vision or thermal. I’ve appreciated the weapon-mounted night vision. It’s easier on your eyes.”
He also likes to pair a Photonis Vyper Monocular System with an EOTech holographic sight system.
“If you’re shooting inside 150 yards, with that EOTech holographic and night vision monocular, you can do that,” Baya said.
On the thermal end, scanners are great for looking over ag fields, clear cuts, and other open areas where you want to cover a lot of ground. With thermal, you can quickly pick up a heat signature.
However, Baya says thermal won’t pick up a limb. For example, if you’re hunting pigs, and you’re sitting on the ground, you won’t pick up brush between you and the hog. For most guys hunting in the South, you’re hunting in areas with brush.
“All of that being considered, if I was buying something today, and had nothing, I’d buy night vision,” Baya said. “I’d buy a monocular and run it as an attached monocular [with] whatever optic is mounted. It has so many more uses besides the hunting such as navigating over land and water and home defense. I really like that I can see through glass with it.”
The Photonis Defense Vyper Monocular System
Those who are looking to go with the static, in-line mounting option should consider the Photonis Vyper Monocular System. It is a rugged option that’s great for hunters.
According to Photonis, the Vyper monocular system achieves MILSPEC performance when paired with the Photonis Defense 4G image tube. Furthermore, when the Vyper is integrated with the Photonis Defense ECHO image tube, the system can even provide near MILSPEC performance at a commercial price point.
This option is crafted with high-strength resin. It offers superior impact resistance. Its custom sleeve protects the image intensifier tube. It’s even tested for shock, submersion, drop, and vibration.
“There’s the standard Viper,” Kirk said. “And if you’re running a D ring on the front lens, I’d recommend the titanium ORC. That’s a titanium ring that replaces a typical ring that’s made of polymer, which isn’t as sturdy. That will give you a hardened place to mount a ring-type mount that wraps around the device.”
Photonis Defense Systems