What You Need to Know about Night Vision Scope Generation?

You’ve never been much of a morning person, have you? The idea of waking up at 4:00 A.M. to drive out to the wilds and hunt wild boar has never exactly been your idea of fun, I bet. Why would you need to sacrifice much-needed sleep just so you can test the validity of that “the early bird catches the worm” saying? What’s wrong with going hunting later in the day when you’re fully rested and alert?

Does this sound like you?

Don’t worry; it sounds like me, too.

Thankfully, there’s no law that prohibits hunters from doing their business anytime after 10:00 A.M. There are plenty of people who prefer afternoon hunts or even evening hunts. Hold the phone, evening hunts? Yes, evening hunts! I’m sure some of you expert hunters reading this are probably rolling your eyes at this point, but remember that you were once in the shoes of these newcomers who know nothing about necessary hunting technology. If you are a newcomer who knows nothing about necessary hunting technology, then allow me to introduce you to something that will quickly become your best friend during late night hunts.

I’m, of course, referring to night vision scopes.


What is Night Vision and How Does It Work?

Naturally gifted to certain animals and only presented to humans through technology, night vision is the ability to see in low-light or no-light conditions. For animals, their eyesight is able to pick up on radiation–such as near-infrared or ultraviolet–through the use of their enhanced spectral range. Obviously, radiation is invisible to the human eye. The only way we can see wield the mighty sword known as night vision is if we purchase technology that will aid us, like specially made binoculars, goggles, or scopes.

Night vision devices are programmed with an enhanced intensity range. The feat of being able to see past the veil of darkness is achieved via technological means through the use of an image intensifier, gain multiplication CCD, or other very low-noise and high-sensitivity array of photodetectors. It should also be noted that there are night vision devices that achieve sight through other means, such as active illumination and thermal technology.

What Do You Mean By “Generations”?

A Night Vision Device can be either a 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation unit. What differentiates the generations apart is the type of image intensifier tube that is used for a particular device. The image intensifier tube is the heart and soul of a night vision device. By reading about each generation today, you can potentially come to a decision when it comes to purchasing one of these bad boys. Let’s explore the differences between the four gens!

1st Gen: The first generation technologies are currently the most popular night vision devices in the world. First gen units amplify existing light several thousand times over, letting you clearly see in the dark. An interesting feature that is exclusive to first generation night vision devices is the slight high-pitched whine that sounds when it is first turned on. This is often followed by a temporarily blurry image with soft edges. This is completely normal for first generation devices, as it is referred to as geometric distortion. All you have to do to fix it is either wait a minute for it to fix itself, or simply make some small adjustments.

The best thing about these units is that they are often sold at relatively low prices, which is perfect if you are into boating, observing wildlife, or protecting your home!

2nd Gen: The second generation devices are primarily used by law enforcement or other professional surveillance corporations. The reason for this is because the second gen technologies are much more expensive than the first gens (at least by $1000!). Another core difference between the first and second gen devices is the second gen’s micro-channel plate, commonly referred to as a MCP. It works as an electron amplifier and is placed directly behind the photocathode.

The MCP consists of millions of short parallel glass tubes. When the electrons pass through these short tubes, thousands more electrons are released. This extra process allows second generation units to amplify the light many more times then first generation giving you a brighter and sharper image. No wonder the police find these gadgets so useful!

3rd Gen: The introduction of the third generation night vision devices saw an even greater improvement from the second generation. By adding the chemical gallium arsenide to the photocathode, a even brighter and sharper image has been achieved. An ion barrier film was also added to increase tube life. Along with that, the third gen image intensifier tubes contain a micro channel plate, GaAs photocathode, and a completely self-contained integral high-voltage power supply. These tubes provide a combined increase in resolution, signal to noise and photosensitivity over tubes with a multi-alkali photocathode.

This gen has proven to be so impressive that the US military cites it as being their go-to night vision technology!

4th Gen: You’re probably wondering by now, “With as impressive as the third generation is, how on Earth can something even more superior be made?” Well! The filmless fourth generation night vision devices have managed to do just that! By removing the ion barrier film and “gating” the system, these units demonstrate substantial increases in target detection range and resolution, particularly at extremely low light levels. The use of filmless technology and auto-gated power supply in image intensifiers result in up to 100% improvement in photo response!

That’s pretty bad-ass, if I do say so myself!