The 7 Best Infrared NV Goggles of 2018 Reviewed: The Definitive Guide

soldier with Armasight Nyx7 Gen 2+
Armasight Nyx7 Gen 2+

We’ve all seen it, the steady green glow of night vision in film and video games. The hero looking like some form of robotic cyclops with his vision bathed in green, a set of NV goggles strapped to his head, and the steady hum of night vision in his ears.

The hum may be fictional, but the nature of night vision devices isn’t. Night goggles open up the world around you once the sun goes down.

Shopping for night vision goggles can be tricky. Night vision isn’t the simplest type of optic on the market, so you need to know not only what to look at, but how it will function for your needs—especially since they can be used for a variety of purposes, from recreational to tactical.

The 7 Top Infrared Goggles of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews

These are our top recommendations for infrared night vision goggles of 2018:

  1. Best cheap #1: Night Owl Optics NOBG1
  2. Best cheap #2: Sightmark Ghost Hunter Kit
  3. Best for the money: Armasight Nyx7 Gen 2+
  4. Best for hunting #1: Night Optics Patrolman Gen 3
  5. Best for hunting #2: Armasight PVS 7 Gen 3
  6. Best overall #1: ATN PVS-7P NVG Gen 3s
  7. Best overall #2: ATN PS15-3A

*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:

Category
Best
Overall #2
Best For
The Money
Best
For Hunting #1


ATN PS15-3A
ATN PS15-3A




Armasight Nyx7 Gen 2+
Armasight Nyx7 Gen 2+

Night Optics Patrolman Gen 3
Night Optics Patrolman Gen 3

Magnification1x1x1x
Lens Diameter27 mm24mm26 mm
Resolution64 lp/mm47-54 lp/mm64-72 lp/mm
Angular Field of View40°40°40°
Weight1.54 lbs16 oz18 oz
Dimensions (LxWxH)4.7" x 4.5" x 2.7"5.9" x 4.0" x 2.7"6" x 3" x 6"
Battery Life60 hours60 hours40 hours
Power Supply(1) 3V CR123A battery or (1) 1.5V AA battery(1) 3V CR123A battery or (1) 1.5V AA battery(2) AA
CostCheck PriceCheck Price$$$$

 

1. Best Cheap NV Goggles #1: Night Owl Optics NOBG1

Night Owl Optics NOBG1

Night Owl Optics is well known for producing affordable night vision optics that are frills-free yet effective.

The NOBG1 is very basic but effective set of goggles for the night vision enthusiast on a budget. These two-lens goggles offer a wider 30-degree field of view and are designed for movement on foot or for recreational vehicles like ATVs and UTVs.

Generation 1

With a Generation 1 device, you have a few flaws that you have to put up with:

  1. It lacks recognition and detection range
  2. You are limited with a resolution of only 35 lp/mm in the center

Like all Generation 1 devices, there is distortion around the edges of the view. The center is clear, but far from perfect. Do not expect to see fine details of, say, someone’s face or a deer’s horns. You have to counter these resolution elements with an integral IR illuminator.

Features

It’s nice that Night Owl includes a full head mount, similar to a HALO system. It is an all-encompassing system which I can greatly appreciate being budget-minded myself.

The optics also has a bright light cut-off system. This prevents the optics from being exposed to damage by sudden bright lights. The battery life ranges from 40 to 80 hours, depending on the usage of IR illuminators.

Specs

  • Resolution: 35 lp/mm
  • Magnification: none (1-to-1)
  • Angular Field of View: 30 degrees
  • Weight: 14 oz

 

Night Owl Optics NOBG1 is also available on:

BassPro Shops

Sportsman’s Guide

 

2.  Best Cheap NV Goggles #2: Sightmark Ghost Hunter Kit

Sightmark Ghost Hunter KitThe optics also has a bright light cut-off system. This prevents the optics from being exposed to damage by sudden bright lights. The battery life ranges from 40 to 80 hours, depending on the usage of IR illuminators.

The Sightmark Ghost Hunter is a 1×24 power unit that is quite compact and lightweight. This is important because it hangs around your head!

Features

  • This kit packs 30 lp/mm
  • Clear enough for most civilian use
  • The Ghost Hunter has an impressive detection range of 87 yards
  • Goggles are easy to use
  • Automatic shutoff feature protects your eyes from bright and sudden lights
  • Perfect for new users
  • Comes with a headset-mounting unit. It wraps around your head and holds the goggles at eye level

It is insanely convenient to use this system, regardless of your intent. We think it’s a solid choice for airsoft, paintball, and other war games. Furthermore, it’s great for training purposes and for beginners.

Specs

  • Resolution – 30lp/mm
  • Magnification – 1x
  • FOV – 30 Degrees
  • Weight – 8.8 ounces

 

Sightmark Ghost Hunter Kit is also available on:

BassPro Shops

Sportsman’s Guide

 

3. Best Goggles for the Money: Armasight Nyx7 Pro Gen 2+

Armasight Nyx7 Pro Gen 2+

Are you ready for something above beginner and right at the cusp of professional grade? If so, the Armasight Nyx 7 Pro Gen 2+ might be for you! The Nyx 7 is a bi-ocular system designed for simple and effective use. A bi-ocular system combines both goggle and monocular into one system.

The actual portion near your eyes is divided into two sections, one for each eye. Then, they connect to a central one-piece viewing unit. This reduces weight and bulk to make it more comfortable for your neck over a long period of time. This Armasight unit is easy to mount to either a helmet or a HALO-style system.

 Features

  • Armasight Nyx 7 provides you with a 54 lp/mm resolution
  • Improved picture definition
  • Nearly Gen 3 performance at a Gen 2 price
  • Hard to beat when it comes to definition and design
  • Nyx 7 lasts 60 hours from a single CR123A battery

Overall, the Armasight Nyx 7 is a great design that’s priced to move. This kind of performance is rarely seen with such an affordable optic.

 Specs

  • Resolution – 54 lp/mm
  • Magnification – 1x (3x and 5x optional)
  • FOV – 40 degrees
  • Weight – 1 pound

 

Read the full Armasight Nyx7 Gen 2+ review…

Armasight Nyx7 Pro Gen 2+ is also available on:

Sportsman’s Guide

 

4. Best NV Goggles For Hunting #1: Night Optics Patrolman Gen 3

Night Optics Patrolman Gen 3

Using night vision goggles is one of the most exciting ways to hunt. The animals are often more confident at night and easier to sneak up on. It’s also challenging to shoot them in the dead of night.

Because hunting at night uses a firearm, you always have to follow some basic safety rules. One is to know your target, so you need to be able to see it clearly with high-quality night vision goggles like the Night Optics Patrolman Generation 3.

Features

  • Clear and bright 64-72 lp/mm resolution
  • There is no distortion around the edges of the lens
  • You get the clear picture you need to identify your target
  • Comes equipped with an integral IR illuminator that can easily attach to any major mounting system

When hunting animals, you need to be able to see them clearly to ensure you are taking a legal game animal. A low resolution can make it very easy for a fox to look like an opossum. In some states, killing a fox is a major felony, so you want to avoid that.

Specs

The Patrolman system is autogated so it is protected from sudden exposure to bright lights. It is waterproof and can even be submerged to 3 feet for 30 minutes. It also has an outstanding detection and recognition range. These ranges are 1148 feet and 984 feet, respectively.

The downside of the Patrolman series is the pound-plus weight that makes it uncomfortable to mount on the head.

  • Resolution: 64 -72 lp/mm
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Angular Field of View: 40 degrees
  • Weight: 18 oz

 

 

5. Best Goggles for Hunting #2: Armasight PVS 7 Gen 3

Armasight PVS 7 Gen 3Imagine you are in the dark fields of Texas, the swamps of Florida, or maybe the hills out west. It’s crucial you use a method to positively identify your target for safety purposes. Spotlights work, but night vision is subtler and easier to use. The Armasight PVS 7 Gen 3 night vision goggles will make it simpler to see and recognize your target.

Features

  • High 72 lp/mm resolution that’s perfect for identifying targets
  • Dependable and solid construction
  • Wide field of view
  • 40-hour runtime
  • Great for hunting at longer ranges

The clarity these goggles offer ensures you don’t see a bright moving blob. We all know you wouldn’t shoot at a moving blob, so you just miss the shot. Instead, you see a 4-legged hog creeping through the field. These goggles also allow you to use an IR laser-aiming device and an IR illuminator.

The PVS 7 Gen 3 goes well beyond what a first or second generation can do. When it comes to hunting, these Armasight goggles are perfect for game across the country. Now you can own the night!

Specs

  • Resolution – 72 lp/mm
  • Magnification – 1x
  • FOV – 40 degrees
  • Weight – 1.5 pounds

 

 

6. Best Goggles Overall #1: ATN PVS-7P NVG Gen 3s

ATN PVS-7P NVG Gen 3sWhen it comes time to rock and roll in the professional realm, PVS-7P night vision goggles are the way to go. These are the kind of goggles the professionals use for self-defense, active duty, and observation. Not to mention the PVS-7P series is built to last.

Features

  • Bi-ocular design with reduced weight and a lower profile
  • Designed to be mounted to a helmet
  • Built-in IR illuminator for low light situations

An IR illuminator is a must have when it comes to professional grade optics, and the PVS-7P is no different. The IR illuminator makes it easy to see close range items too. With practice, a user can get good enough to read a book!

The PVS-7P has a resolution of 72 lp/mm. On a clear night, this gives you the ability to easily spot and identify facial features at an impressive range. The automatic brightness control shuts the unit off if it’s suddenly exposed to bright light. Overall, the PVS-7P is an outstanding unit and provides you with a 40-degree field of view and 40 hours of run time.

Specs

  • Resolution – 72 LP/MM
  • Magnification – 1x
  • FOV – 40 degrees
  • Weight – 1.5 pounds

 

ATN PVS-7P NVG Gen 3s is also available on:

Cabelas

Sportsman’s Guide

 

7. Best Goggles Overall #2: ATN PS15-3A

ATN PS15-3AIf you prefer a binocular design, then the PS15-3A are the goggles for you. The ATN PS15s are a Gen 3 system. That means you get professional grade performance! The high-performance intensifier tubes give you a wider field of view that’s natural. Overall, the PS15s are compact and lightweight, but not as compact as the above-mentioned design.

Features

  • Provides a very clear image
  • Built-in illuminator is designed for close quarters use in the dark
  • Well suited for both professionals and beginners
  • Rock solid 64 lp/mm resolution
  • 40-degree field of view
  • Impressive 60-hour battery life

These ATNs are easy to mount to a helmet or hands-free system of any kind. They weigh 1.54 pounds, so while they are not the lightest system out there, they aren’t heavy enough to make you rub your neck every few minutes. Keep in mind the PS15s are water-resistant, not waterproof. We think these goggles are amazing optics and will handle any role you toss them into.

Specs

  • Resolution – 64 lp/mm
  • Magnification – 1x
  • FOV – 40 degree
  • Weight – 24 ounces

 

ATN PS15-3A is also available on:

Euro Optic

 

How Night Vision Goggles Work

Night vision goggles work by taking invisible light you can’t see with the naked eye and amplifying it into visible light. This amplification of light makes it possible to see in situations that are too dark for the naked eye to see. Googles use two imaging tubes that allow you to see a wide field of view that beats out a monocular. However, night vision goggles do require that invisible and ambient light to be present to function correctly. The more moon and starlight you have, the brighter your sight picture will be.

 

Where Night Vision Goggles Shine

Night vision goggles are great if you need a portable system for maneuvering and seeing the world around you. Compared to other night vision optics, night vision goggles give you the ability to easily move in a variety of ways. This includes walking, running, crawling, as well as navigating obstacles and doing tasks like opening doors, climbing ladders, and utilizing weapons.

Night vision goggles are commonly employed when the user needs both hands to complete a task. In tactical roles, they are comfortable to use for long-term observation and for tasks like patrolling, clearing buildings, and even treating wounded personnel. Their hands-free design makes incredibly convenient.

 

Night Vision Goggle Price Ranges and Quality

Night vision goggles can be had at a variety of levels that range from hobbyist to professional grade. On the cheap side, you can get a pair of goggles for a few hundred bucks, but they will not be anywhere near professional grade goggles. On the professional grade side, you can spend upwards of ten thousand dollars for a quality pair of night vision.

The higher the generation, the more the goggles will cost. The differences in image quality, durability, and overall performance make the amount you’ll spend immensely different. A cheap pair may give you the ability to see another person at 100 yards, but a high-quality pair will allow you to see their gender, their clothing, and what they are doing or looking at.

 

 

Know What You Need To Get the Right Gear 

man with night vision goggles

Generations and Use Cases Explained!

Generation 1

  • Better for casual observation and learning to use night vision
  • General surveillance of an area is possible, but recognition is difficult
  • Great choice for airsofters and paintballers
  • The low resolution makes it difficult and unsafe to drive or shoot with it
  • Max range of roughly 75 yards
  • Drains batteries quickly
  • Least expensive
  • Light amplification up to 900 times
  • Smaller field of view

 

Generation 2

  • Lowest generation optics that can be used for hunting, shooting, and driving safely
  • Generation 2 and 2+ optics have a massive increase in resolution
  • Needs less ambient light to function than Gen 1 devices
  • Gen 2 optics allow you to step your game up when it comes to the use of night vision (They are not something I’d trust my life on during a tactical situation, but they are capable of easy movement and easy shooting)
  • Amplifies light up to 30,000 times
  • Automatically controls distortion
  • IR illuminator not always needed
  • Longer battery life
  • Can recognize objects out to 200 yards

 

Generation 3

  • These devices are the first level where you start to get tactical
  • Provides enough power and high enough resolution to see and recognize almost anyone and anything at a respectable range
  • This is what the military currently uses in combat
  • Used by tactical patrols to clear rooms
  • Also used for observation, surveillance, hunting, shooting, driving, and more
  • Longest battery life
  • Recognize objects out to 300 yards
  • Equipped with a microchannel plate for gain control
  • With a Gen 3 set of goggles, you can do basically anything

 

Generation 4

  • Provides the clearest picture currently possible with NV technology
  • Like Gen 3, it is suited for tactical units; it can do everything a Gen 3 device can, only clearer
  • The downside is the extreme cost that goes with its performance
  • Can be used even in daylight conditions
  • Sharp images with the best recognition and detection range

The Most Expensive of Optics
Gen 4 goggles are the best of the best when it comes to night vision technology

Weight

Weight is a major issue to consider when buying night vision goggles since they are designed to be mounted on a helmet or a head-worn system. If they are too heavy, they can cause discomfort and strain to your neck.

You really want to stay under two pounds if possible. Most goggles, especially professional grade, can remain under 2 pounds. Models currently used by Special Forces will exceed this weight, but they also have a total of four lenses. Make sure you do your neck exercises if you plan to carry anything heavier.

Size

The size of a unit becomes a major issue if you attempt to use a firearm while utilizing the goggles. Too large and it makes it near impossible to gain a cheek weld on your rifle. It may be hard to avoid this, so a high-rise optic mount may be necessary.

 

Desirable Features

Mounting System

You need to determine what mounting system is compatible with your night vision goggles and how exactly you are planning to wear them.

Helmet Mount

Rhino helmet mounts

Rhino helmet mounts are the most common and are what most military forces use. It is directly attached to a helmet via a screw or a tensioned strap.

 

Head Mount

halo system

A HALO or head mount does not require a helmet. It is composed of bands and webbing that situate the goggles over your eyes. These mounts are lighter, cooler, and cheaper than a helmet mounted system, but less comfortable overall. These systems may also hold the goggles closer to your head, which may be uncomfortable.

 

Autogated

Autogated devices are handy when wearing goggles since they are commonly used while moving, shooting, and even driving. The appearance of sudden bright lights can be dangerous and can easily damage a non-gated device.

An autogated device will not be damaged by bright light and will often shut off completely when exposed to bright lights. This can be a lifesaver when it comes to long-term use or use in urban environments. They can save your potentially several thousand dollar optics from being flash fried.

Autogating adds to the cost of the optic for sure, but when it comes to higher end optics, it’s a feature I wouldn’t go without.

Integral Illuminator

An integral illuminator for night vision is important and desirable, especially with monoculars or binoculars. It reduces the weight and complexity of an attached unit. It also makes it possible to see and move when there is little to no ambient light.

An integral illuminator can also make it easy to search in close quarters environments. With a proper illuminator and a good set of goggles, they can be tuned to the point where you can even read text on paper.

Integral illuminators can also be used for signaling other night vision users through quick and sudden bursts of light. This can be used to signal your position, or even communicate in Morse code. Some IR illuminator models can also be detached and carried in the hand like a flashlight. These are often larger and more powerful than integral illuminators

 

Night Vision Goggles Range

Soldier using night vision

The effective range of your night vision goggles is going to be determined by the quality of the optics. A hobbyist pair will never keep up with the optics used by military forces. Other factors affecting range include the size of the object, how much ambient light is available, if there is fog, etc.

Night vision has two effective ways to measure distance: detection range and recognition range. A Gen 3 device on a good clear night will allow you to see a person with ease at 200 yards, but all you’ll be able to tell is that it’s a bipedal human. At 75 yards you’ll be able to see if they are a man or a woman, what’s in their hands, and if they are a potential threat.

 

Night Vision Goggles Gain

When it comes to night vision optics, gain is the ability for the optic—in this case, goggles—to compensate for different levels of light at night. Essentially it’s the brightness of an area or object when amplified by the goggles. Gain is the amplification of the video signal created by the goggles.

A high gain is needed in the darkest areas, and you can find out your goggle’s gain when the light output is divided by light input. It will likely be in the tens of thousands with a high-quality pair of Gen 2 or Gen 3 devices.

In situations where the ambient light is constantly changing, some form of gain control is quite desirable. In these situations, a manual gain is a must have. These environments are often urban and the light around you is constantly changing. With a manual gain, you can adjust the device as needed and not have to rely on an automatic gain system. Automatic gain is well suited for use in nonurban areas where the gain only shifts slightly.

 

Weather Resistance

Night vision goggles combine two of the most fragile pieces of gear in the world: electronics and glass. When you combine the two, you will find issues with fragility and oftentimes the weather resistance is rather poor. Higher end units may be sealed as much as possible to resist some water and dust, but only higher-end models are truly strong and powerful enough to resist all forms of weather.

One major issue I saw overseas was that sandstorms would kill night vision, not just due to them destroying visibility but the sand would coat and strike the lenses, causing scratches and defeating your ability to see over time. Additionally, even my issue goggles were merely water resistant, and I destroyed them once when we got poured on. Night vision goggles are tough, but when purchasing it’s critical that you examine the area you will be using them in and ensure they are well protected against the elements.

 

Durability

As I stated above, glass plus electornics equals something potentially fragile. Hobby level models of night vision goggles are far from perfect and a short fall or sudden impact may destroy them entirely. The higher-end models that use aluminum bodies are often much stronger and rated for a short fall. Plastic bodies are plastic bodies, and they are an example of you get what you pay for. The same goes for lenses. Glass lenses are cleared and less likely to collapse and slide out of place. Higher-end materials create stronger optics.

 

Batteries

The battery your optic uses can be an important trait. You want a common and easy to find battery with high-quality options available. Something that takes a double A is much easier to deal with than something that takes an 1860 battery. High-quality batteries that are less likely to leak are a must have for tools as expensive as night vision goggles.

Feature to Avoid

Magnification

Goggles are designed to be worn while shooting, walking, and driving. For these tasks, you really want a zero to 1 magnification.

If magnification is present, you may have difficulty moving safely.

 

F.A.Q

Can you use NV goggles with a scope?

Night vision goggles can be used with optics, but they are picky about the optics. The optics must have a long or infinite eye relief and don’t work well with magnified optics. They work best with red dot optics. However, these optics need to have night vision settings and compatibility. This may also require you to mount the optic a little more forward than normal. Additionally, it can be tricky to get an eye relief with a low mount so you may need to mount the optic higher than normal to accommodate the night vision goggles.

Do NV goggles work with glasses?

Glasses are a must have for some folks and luckily most night vision goggles can be used with glasses. They have enough eye relief that makes combining both goggles and glasses easy to do. Very few pairs of night vision goggles will be kept so close the eyes that glasses can’t be worn.

What NV goggles do the military use?

By and large, the military no longer uses night vision goggles. They have moved to monoculars and favor their lighter weight, smaller profile, and greater peripheral vision potential. The US Marines currently use the PVS 14, as does most of the Army, but the Army is now fielding the AN/PSQ-20 monocular as well.

You may see some old night vision goggles kicking around non-combat units and reserve units, but goggles are on their way out of military use. Some special ops units will use a four-tube unit known as the Ground Panoramic Night Vision Goggle. These were the goggles used by Seal Team Six to get Bin Laden.

Have Fun with NV Goggles!

milsim airsoft using night vision goggles

When we start thinking of “night vision,” we usually picture night vision goggles. The tactical aspects make these a highly desirable system for night time movement.

Using goggles can also be a lot of fun, especially when playing MilSim airsoft. You can easily live out your Tom Clancy fantasies with a set of night vision goggles!

More reading:

How night vision goggles work

Overview of 3 types of night vision devices

 

The 7 Best Infrared NV Goggles of 2018 Reviewed: The Definitive Guide
5 (100%) 1 vote

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes

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