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A historical primer on weapon mounted night vision scopes


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I decided that it was time to put together a comprehensive (as well as I can make it) historical timeline of weapon mounted night vision scopes. I know that there are some that I don't have or discuss, such as the PAS-4 between the KW Sniperscope and PVS-1, nor do I discuss the PVS-3 because I have yet to get my hands on one of those mythical beasts, let alone look through one. I also don't get into the very newest generation NV scopes as there are now so many of them that I don't have the time to track them all down. So, this review will go from the KW Sniperscope to the PVS-14 weapon mounted. This is going to be an extensive posts, so it will take much of the night to get it loaded and I won't respond to any posts until I am done. Bare with me until I finish with the PVS-14. So, with that said, here goes......


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KOREAN WAR SNIPERSCOPE:

 

These scopes were initially developed during the final phases of WWII, but did not come into full effectiveness until the Korean War. They were also still being used into Vietnam. This is what is now known as Active IR Gen 0 night vision. Active in that it takes a active light IR light source to be able to see anything. Unfortunately, I do not know if my scope works due to the lack of batteries and knowledge of what type of power to apply. This is a 6v in, 20,000v out and the last thing I want to do is burn it up, so until I can get more definitive information, this one will be a display only model.

This system mounts to the M1 Carbine by a rail system that mounts to the top of the rifle via the rear sight notch and a barrel clamp on the front. The foregrip houses a trigger that initiates the intensifier tube and the IR light that comes attached.

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Here is a good right side shot of the scope, the rubber eyecup has deteriorated and fallen off, but otherwise a very clean scope.

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This is the battery that is carried in a rubberized canvas bag, which I don't have. It is fairly heavy when filled with acid. A rather long cable runs from the battery into the left side of the scope and provides power for both the scope and IR illuminator

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This is where the power cord comes into the scope. This is a real weak link and I'm not sure how they kept from ripping these apart on the scopes out in the field. Mine was getting brittle and wasn't in the best of condition, so I used some rubber sealing tape to protect this area as I use this rifle for living history displays.

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The trigger assembly has me stumped. This is the correct mounting position for it, but it does not fit the pot belly stocks at all. I had to sand this stock down (don't worry, it was an Italian stock) to get this to fit, it's almost like these need to be mounted on the straight stocks, but I know that they were mounted on M2 carbines. Makes me think this foregrip was off an earlier model. You can see where the power cord for the scope comes out the left side, the one on the right side powers the IR illuminator.

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To mount and unmount the scope, you first must disconnect the power cord for the scope and the IR illuminator

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Then you remove the retention nut that holds the rear of the scope onto the rail. There is one of these screws on both sides and they are also used to adjust windage of the scope once it's mounted. The nut in this picture has already been removed.

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Now, just turn the scope 90 degrees and the oblong mounting foot will come out of the rail and the scope can be removed.

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Here you can see the two mounting surfaces, the oblong foot and wedge on the scope, and the foot hole on the rail and recess on the rear of the rail.

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An overhead shot of the rail and foregrip mounting hardware.

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The rear mounting area for the rail. If the rail is installed, there is no rear sight, so in this configuration this is truly a night fighting weapon.

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And the front attachment. It is rather hard to see, but the weapon literally has to be completely disassembled to show how the rail attaches. When the kit is issued for the M3, it comes with a upper handguard with a hole cut into it, mine has split. A barrel clamp clamps around the barrel, of which, I only have one side, but being a display weapon, it doesn't matter. The barrel clamp has a stud that sticks up through the handguard hole, then the front end of the rail around the stud and finally, the foregrip goes over the top of all that with a nut holding it together.

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One final picture, this is what the IR illuminator looks like. The glass has a dark material sprayed onto it to filter the light with a common light bulb.

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I wish this tube operated, but I don't want to try it until I am sure how to do it safely. If anyone has a working tube, I would love to see a picture of what the reticle looks like.


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PVS-1.

 

This was the first true Passive IR scope. Meaning that it was capable of using ambient light to operate. It did this by cascading three tubes in a row and while effective, it was very cumbersome and heavy. But as with all new things, if you have never had anything better before, this was a giant leap. Here I have a PVS-1 mounted on a M-14, nearly impossible to properly hold effectively without support.

 

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The first thing that gets your attention with this scope is that it is off-set to the left of the rifle. With the Sniperscope, it made the rifle into a dedicated night only weapon and that wasn't acceptable for any large deployments, so to work around this, a side plate was developed for the M-14 and the scope off-set. This allowed for the rifle to properly eject cartridges and for the stripper clips to be used if necessary, it also allowed for the dedicated rifle sights to be used when the scope was mounted.

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Since having a external battery wasn't practical on the battlefield, an internal battery was designed. This proprietary battery is no longer made, so a AA battery pack has to be used. In front of the battery pack is the oscillator compartment. The oscillator in simple terms is what adjusts the voltage to the micro-channel plate to make it work properly.

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Battery compartment and make-shift battery pack

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and the oscillator in it's compartment

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Because the scope is directly mounted to the side mount, the reticle adjustments are made through two small knobs on the front of the scope just in front of the oscillator compartment. A large "wheel knob" at the front left side by the objective lens is how distance focus is made. The power switch for the entire scope is a single flimsy switch on the left side just in front of the battery compartment before the oscillator compartment

 

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The eyepiece has a large rubber "push" shutter. Put your eye up to the rubber cup and push forward and a flap shutter opens and allows you to see the eyepiece. This prevents the green glow from getting out and someone seeing it.

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This is also where the diopter setting is set. Diopter is the setting that lets you focus on the back of the screen. The diopter has a range of +4 to -4, a total range of eight diopter settings. If diopter isn't set right, the reticle is out of focus and blurry.

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The objective lens on this is a single lens and the daylight cap is hard plastic with a single hole in it to let minimal light in during the day for zeroing purposes.

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To mount the scope on the rifle, a mounting bracket has to be mounted to the rifle and is part of the scope.

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To mount the scope, the scope is simply slid onto the side mount rail from back to front. There is a pin that protrudes from the side mount and a notch in the scope mount. When they mate up, then the locking levers are frictioned closed.

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To use the scope, install the battery, take the weapon out into the dark, remove the objective lens day cap and turn the switch on. You will hear a humming noise and this is the tube in operation. When looking through the scope, you will see a T pattern black reticle. The black spots in this scope is lint and dust from someone taking the rear eyepiece lens off and letting contaminants inside.

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These scopes were very susceptible to damage from bright lights. Here are the farm lights from a mile away. When viewing bright lights, they will leave streaks in the image that take a few minutes to dissipate, so prolonged care has to be taken to prevent damage.

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Again, when this was first fielded, the guys that got them thought they were the cats meow, no big bulky packs, batteries, or cables. Quite an advancement and this is considered the first Gen 1 scope.


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PVS-2

 

The PVS-2 was an upgrade of the PVS-1. Here it is mounted to a M-16A1 clone.

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Some of the upgrades are that the front focus dial is gone, the windage and elevation knobs are now integral to the mount, and the reticle pattern is more useable for distance shooting. The later versions of the PVS-2 have ABC or Automatic Brightness Control. If the light is to bright, voltage to the intensifier would drop and prevent burning out the phosphorus screen.


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Once again, the scope is mounted on the left side of the rifle to allow the use of the dedicated rifle sights. Also, the windage and elevation for the scope are integral to the scope, instead of the expense of moving a reticle inside the scope, why not just move the scope? Well, this didn't work out so well and was not used in this fashion again.

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The power supply and oscillator housings are still the same with the same power switch, but you will notice the removal of the the windage and elevation knobs along with the focus knob.

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The daylight filter is a darkened piece of glass in the cap. the objective lens has also been changed, it has a reflective lens inside.

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If you look close enough, you can see straight up my nose in the parabolic mirror inside.

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The eyepiece diopter is the same +4 to -4, but now the distance focus is just in front of the diopter focus

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To mount the scope, a base has to be added to the M-16. This base is place in the carry handle and a plate on the other side is wing-net screwed tight. This provides the slide mount exactly like the M-14 side mount for the scope to slide onto.

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Then the scope is slid onto the rail from rear to front until the pin engages the notch

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To operate the scope, same as the PVS-1, install the battery, remove the daylight filter cap, and turn the switch on. I was having problems tonight getting a good picture and think my oscillator is going bad and needs replaced. You can barely see the reticle pattern outdoors in the picture, it is better with the eye, but would be a problem if using for real.

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You can see that the farm lights are not as aggressive as the -1, but still wash out the surrounding terrain.

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Here is the pattern in a brighter environment, still not able to get a good picture, but it is very sharp and clear when viewing through the scope in this amount of light.

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Overall, an improvement over the -1, but not by much. This is still Gen 1 technology.


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PVS-3

 

I do not have a PVS-3 as these are very tough to come by. I have never seen one and would like to get my hands on one some day. If someone has one they want to "move along", let me know. Here is a picture I copied off Google.

 

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The great thing about these is the miniaturization of the electronics and intensifier, creating a much smaller and useable scope.


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PVS-4

 

The PVS-4 is still being used by the military in a secondary role and was the most mass produced scope in history. This scope is mounted on a M-16A2 clone.

 

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Immediately you can see that the body is fat and squat. It has tube brightness and reticle brightness. First time the reticle is lit up instead of a black reticle.

You can also see that the reticle adjustments are back inside the scope.

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Also, there are two battery compartments, on on the right side rear and a big square box on top. The round compartment is for the round BA5567 A/U, but it was soon found that the AA batteries were more readily available and lasted longer, so a AA battery adapter was made later in it's life.

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The objective lens daylight cap on this scope is a adjustable filter cap that can be opened or closed to let in the amount of light that is necessary depending on the ambient light available. Therefore, dusk shooting is now more feasible.

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The PVS-4 incorporates a single image intensifier instead of cascading three tubes together. This intensifier is completely self contained and is considered Gen 2. But a drawback is that the intensifier is not of sufficient quality, so the parabolic lens is used to gather as much light as possible, thus the fatter but shorter profile. The TVS-5 scope is basically a PVS-4 with a very large objective lens on it.

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The PVS-4 has a dedicated mounting point for many different weapon systems from the M-16 to the M-60 machine gun, all the way to the M2 .50, recoiless rifles. For the M-16, all that is needed is to place the scope down into the carry handle of the M-16 and screw in from the bottom. Easy add and removal.

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To use the scope, install whichever battery you are going to use, remove the daylight filter if needed, and then turn on the tube brightness and then the reticle brightness. The reticle pattern is changed for the type of weapon being used by removing the cap in the front of the lens and putting the appropriate reticle in and replacing the cap. The reticle is graduated for the caliber by distance with a rudimentary stadia for determining distance off known size.

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Here, with the same farmhouse, you can see that the halo effect isn't nearly as bad and you can actually tell what is around the lights much better.

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During the lifetime of this scope, Gen 3 tubes became available and were retrofitted into the PVS-4, making it a very nice scope to use, but still bulky.


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PVS-14

 

The PVS-14 was designed as a monocle for basic infantry use. The monocle is designed to mount to a Soldiers helmet mount with a swing arm and J-arm. It also comes with a weapons mount so that it can be mounted behind a combat optic, making the rifle a useable night firing weapon without ruining the optics point of aim.

 

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The thought is that the Close Combat Optic is mounted far enough forward that the PVS-14, during night operations can be mounted behind the optic, making the day optic into a night optic. The monocle is in direct line with the scope and doesn't interfere with the point of aim.

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Distance focus is achieved by focusing the objective lens housing. The battery compartment is also facing forward. This model uses a single CR-123 battery, but older versions utilize two AA batteries. There is also a manual gain knob in the front, this knob allows the individual to lighten up or darken the tube manually depending on the lighting condition. By doing this, the effects of recoil are lessened and prevent premature tube degredation from the jarring of weapons firing.

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The eyepiece lens also contains the diopter adjustment. Now, the adjustment ranges from +2 down to -6. Seems most people go blind in the negative direction and there wasn't as much need for the +4 type people, so for those of us suffering from presbyopia, much better. Also in the back is the power knob.

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To shoot this configuration, the CCO has to be turned on and the brightness of the dot reduced to it's minimum. Mount the PVS-14 behind the CCO with a quick attach mount and then turn the PVS-14 on. Set the manual gain to accomodate the ambient light level and readjust the reticle dot of the CCO. Now you are ready to fire. This is not meant to be a sniper system by any means, so no attempts at perfecting this system have been made, this is truely a Close Combat system. When looking through the PVS-14 and into the CCO, the PVS will see around the sides of the CCO. The thickness of the CCO body will determine the peripherial view. The first picture was taken with the M68 Aimpoint CCO. You can see the dark outlines of the body, adjustment knobs, and the rubber attachment keeper. Also, with a single dot, it is easy to confuse the dot with the stars or other lights, so I had to turn the reticle dot illumination up to differentiate it. Looking through the system with your naked eye was better than the picture showed, but still wasn't very good.

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So, to help get a better picture of what Gen 3 looks like I swapped the M68 out for a EoTech sight with a better reticle and a thinner body.

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What an amazing history hawk driver! I especially enjoyed the break down of the M3 scope! Beautiful set up! Here's mine as well! evevy2yp.jpg

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I too am having trouble mounting the foregrip. It won't fit my M2 style stock.

 

 

M1/M3 Carbine: late '44 Inland

M1 Garand: late '44 Springfield

 

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Great presentation, thanks for the memories that bring more of a chuckle of the remembering:

I used one of the early models during a training exercise and had quite the learning eexperience; ie go forth & learn. What I learned was how bulky and awkward these things were and the effect they had on night vision when used. You could use the scope to move and still walk off the edge or not use the scope while walking off the edge and at least not hurt your face {Remember, live fast, love hard and die young but always, always leave a pretty face}.

Eventually we got the PVS~5s but that's not what you're discussing here.

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