How Does Night Vision Scope Work?

Night vision scopes have been a very important tool for organizations like law enforcement and the military ever since the technology became available, and night scopes have become a popular item among sportsmen as well because of advances and affordability with the technology.

Night vision comes in a variety of sizes and applications from handheld devices to mounted devices. You can find Night scopes in almost every price range imaginable and with some very nice options also. Of course, it is all going to depend on what you will use the scope for as to what you will purchase.

​The military uses night scopes extensively but since military personnel do not have to purchase their own gear, we will instead talk a little bit about law enforcement, because some law enforcement officers do buy their own gear.

When an officer purchases a night scope, he has to consider the environment he will be operating in, target acquisition, observation, and intelligence gathering abilities of his night vision unit. He will also have to pay attention to how sturdy the unit is as well as how it will react to different types of weather, because here reliability does count.

​Although some security cameras employ night scope technology and are used regularly by some security firms, they may also employ night scopes for night time surveillance. As a rule, these types of scopes are handheld or mounted on a tripod rather than mounted on a rifle.

Again, some of the things that these firms need to think about when purchasing night units is how reliable, sturdy, and weather resistant they are.

The greatest benefit to security firms utilizing night vision gear is that these units will increase their ability to interdict thieves before they can wreak their havoc.

​Now let us talk about the application of night scopes for sportsmen or hunters. As you know most hunters apply their skills during the day, but this is not always the case.

For starters, most hunters will go out in the early morning or pre-dawn hours to their favorite hunting spots or blinds. In addition, most of the hunting seasons take place in the fall and winter, which means that they may be dealing with adverse weather conditions.

Night scopes can be very handy in those early hours of the morning when it is still dark, and an all weather unit handheld or rifle mounted is what you should have.

​Last, but by no means least, you have to think about how you are going to purchase your night scope. There a few ways that you can buy best night vision scope too.

Many sporting goods outlets particularly the large chains will carry just about any kind of night vision unit that you want. These stores will also likely have great prices and sales on these items too.

You may want to purchase one through a mail order company, but there are too many possible negatives for that. Online purchases of night scopes are quite normal, because buyers can do a lot of research prior to their purchase.

​Before buying a device suitable for viewing at night, you have to find out how night vision works. In this article you will be introduced to topics like "amplification of light", "infrared illuminator" and "phosphor screen". Once you've familiarized yourself with these topics, you will understand the concept.

​Night vision devices come in goggles, scopes, monoculars and binoculars. In this article I will focus only on monoculars (only one objective lens) and binoculars. The only technology which will be considered, is the intro-level known as Generation 1. Generations 2-4 are highly sophisticated and used only in specialized niches, like the military and security.

​Primary object of these devices: Unlike binoculars, they are primarily intended to make it possible for you to see in the dark, not to magnify distant objects or see objects far away. For this reason night vision devices have low magnification, like 4x.

​Amplification of light

​Being able to see at night is based on the fact that there's always some light available at night (from the moon, stars or from artificial sources). Night vision devices are sophisticated electro-optical devices that utilize the available light, by amplifying it with a special tube to make seeing in the dark possible.

​Infrared illuminator

​All quality instruments of this sort have a trick up their sleeves. They provide extra light (infrared) when the available light is not enough to get a bright image. They do that with infrared illuminators (or accept supplementary IR illuminators).

This illuminator casts a virtually invisible infrared ray at the object at which you are looking, the objective lenses of the binoculars pick up the extra (infrared) light along with the visible light which is available and this then results in a brighter image.

​All in all, the amount of light gain varies from 15,000 to 40,000 times, depending on the quality of the this type of instrument. The more light gained, the brighter the image.

​Phosphor screen

​The image that you see is actually not the physical object itself, but a projected, amplified electronic image on a phosphor screen (like a green, monochrome TV screen), which glows with a green colour. This is perfect, since the human eye can distinguish more shades of green than any other colour. You cannot see in colour with a night vision device.

​The eyepiece then magnifies the image for you to see.

​The phosphor screens are not forever, but they will last for 1500-2500 hours - which is an awfully long time for a non-professional user. However, this also means that you should think twice before buying a used device, unless you know exactly how the previous owner used it.

​In addition to this, wrong use could also harm your device. They are supposed to be used in low light conditions. They do their job with the help of extremely light sensitive components. They will suffer damage or lose useful life when used in daylight or when "overloaded" by strong artificial light like flashlights, headlights or spotlights.

​You should now know how does night vision work: Available light is amplified, additional light is supplied by the infrared illuminator and the image is projected onto a phosphor screen, which you then see through the eyepiece.

About the Author

I'm Rodney Heaton and I love hunting in the wild. In the past, I was in the military for over 5 years. After that I became a licensed hunter and a mountain guide.