Night vision goggles are one of the most effective combat multipliers available for night time defense of your property. Modern night vision devices allow you to see much greater distances under low light conditions without giving away your position to potential assailants.
We checked out some of the most popular and highly rated night vision goggles to pick out the ten best options for preppers. Our list covers a range of styles, performance levels, and price points.
1. ATN PVS14-3 – Gen 3
The ATN PVS14-3 is a truly versatile night vision monocular. It’s based on the popular PVS14 style helmet or rifle mounted night vision optic and offers military-grade performance for reasonable prices.
Why we like it: The PVS14-3 is built to mil-spec standards and is much more durable than many similar night vision goggles. We definitely wouldn’t recommend you drop it, but it’s certainly able to handle more bumps and shakes than a comparable sporting quality competitor.
Flaws: Not everyone likes monocular night vision goggles. If you don’t have the training it can be disorienting to figure out how to look through it while keeping one eye consistently closed.
2. ATN PVS14-4 – Gen 4
The ATN PVS14-4 offers some of the most advanced night vision technology in a wildly popular configuration. It’s a monocular style design that’s been widely used by the U.S. Military and other serious operators.
Why we like it: This PVS-14 variant incorporates all the latest in night vision goggle technology. It’s durably built and can be mounted on a wide range of different helmets, rifles, and other optical equipment. Some of the key features are a filmless intensifier and a very high image resolution.
Flaws: As a Gen 4 product you get the best possible performance, but at a cost. Namely, cost. The PVS14-4 is several thousand dollars more expensive than a Gen 3 product and offers only marginally better performance.
3. AGM Global Vision NVG50 – Gen 3+
The AGM Global Vision NVG50 is a pair of stereoscopic binocular night vision goggles with Gen 3 image tubes. It’s designed to be as comfortable to wear and ergonomic to use as possible. It incorporates the most in-demand features for high-end night vision goggles available to civilians.
Why we like it: The NVG50 offers true binocular performance with a 51-degree field of vision. This allows you to maintain watch over a wider area at once without having to constantly move your head. Its built-in infrared illuminator even gives you the capability to read in the dark.
Flaws: The number one flaw is the cost. The stereoscopic vision and wide field of view are great, but the NVG50 consistently costs twice as much as a monocular design. Most preppers won’t derive enough extra benefit to justify the price.
4. ATN PS15-3P – Gen 3+
The ATN PS15-3P is an advanced Gen 3 pair of binocular night vision goggles. They’re designed with all the latest features allowed in civilian night vision tech including an autogated power supply, flip-up mounting system, high lens resolution, and basic water resistance.
Why we like it: The 3P designation reflects the advanced autogated design of the power supply. It provides you with a substantially clearer visibility in light-polluted areas up to and including dusk/dawn conditions. It’s a really great thing to look for if you live in an urban environment where light sources are common.
Flaws: As a binocular pair of night vision goggles the PS13-3P’s are heavier and bulkier than monocular products. They’re still compatible with modern tactical optics, but they’re a little harder to line up a shot and work better with an infrared targeting laser
5. ATN NVM-14 – Gen 3
The ATN NVM-14 is the sporting equivalent to the mil-spec ATN PSV-14. It has the same image tube and other internals but isn’t quite as durable or rugged. The tradeoff makes it slightly more affordable for comparable performance.
Why we like it: The NVM-14 body style is the most versatile option for your average prepper. When combined with ATN’s high-quality image tube you wind up with a pair of night-vision goggles that can also be used on a rifle, with recording equipment, or as a spotting scope.
Flaws: As the sporting variant of the PSV-14, the NVM-14 offers similar performance without the mil-spec body. It’s overall more fragile and susceptible to minor impacts and other issues.
6. TRYBE Defense PVS-14 – Gen 3
The TRYBE Defense PVS-14 is based on the monocular style night vision goggle widely used within the U.S. Military. It’s compact, relatively lightweight, and includes a Gen 3 image tube and other internals. The housing is built to mil-spec standards to increase durability and longevity.
Why we like it: TRYBE Defense offers the PSV-14 in a variety of different models and styles. This lets you choose between both green and white phosphors as well as a magnified version for tactical shooting.
Flaws: This PVS-14 variant is slightly bulkier than many comparable night vision monoculars. If it wasn’t mounted to your head we wouldn’t mention it, but every quarter of an inch counts in that position.
7. ATN NVG7-2 – Gen 2
The ATN NVG7-2 is a Gen 2 single-tube night vision device. It’s technically a monocular image tube connected to a pair of viewing goggles. This design was widely used within the U.S. military starting in the 1980s and offers substantial benefits for those not concerned with modern tactical effectiveness.
Why we like it: The NVG7-2 gives you real night vision capability for around half the price of newer models. You can experience the benefits of night vision goggles without having to shell out multiple thousands of dollars.
Flaws: Both the image tube and the housing are considered obsolete by modern military standards and are being phased out of service. The two-eyed monocular style limits its tactical use and makes it more difficult to sight down a rifle barrel.
8. Sionyx Aurora Night Vision Camera
The Sionyx Aurora is part of a new generation of digital night vision that’s being offered to civilian users. It’s comparable to low/mid-level Gen 2 light enhancement but costs just a small fraction of true night vision goggles. It’s a great option if you’re just looking to check out what’s going on at night around your property.
Why we like it: It offers reasonable performance for a rock bottom price. The Aurora line of night vision cameras let you experience night vision capabilities without dropping a huge chunk of change. It also offers some functionality, such as recording and full-color vision, that other night vision goggles can’t provide.
Flaws: As a digital night vision camera the Aurora offers just barely Gen 2 capabilities. It’s also heavier and bulkier than most traditional night vision monoculars.
9. Armasight MNVD-40
The Armasight MNVD-40 is a monocular Gen 2 night vision device built to provide acceptable performance in a lightweight yet durable package. They include some really useful features including a built-in IR illuminator and a flood lens to help improve overall performance.
Why we like it: The MNVD-40’s are some of the smallest and lightest monocular night vision goggles available. They’re designed to work with most mounting systems and provide adequate performance under low to no light conditions.
Flaws: They’re quite pricey for Gen 2 night vision goggles. This is especially true considering that they’re monocular in design and don’t offer waterproofing.
10. EOTech GPG-000-A32
The EOTech GPG-000-A32 are four tube night vision goggles designed to provide the performance required by the most demanding tactical situations. They actually use four different image tubes to provide a dual stereoscopic effect that offers a massive 97-degree field of vision.
Why we like it: They’re absolutely top of the line. These night vision goggles offer one of the widest fields of vision possible, include all the latest and greatest optical enhancements, and provide performance almost impossible to find outside of military Spec Op night vision goggles.
Flaws: They cost literally tens of thousands of dollars. The performance they provide is excellent, but unless you’re extremely well-heeled they’re going to be out of your budget for the foreseeable future.
What’s new with night vision goggles
Who should buy night vision goggles?
Night vision goggles have a pretty specific list of people who can benefit from owning them. Enthusiasts will tell you otherwise, but their high cost and relatively specific maintenance requirements make them a very specialized product.
Preppers with large properties – If you own and manage a large property night vision goggles can give you a lot of value. They make it really easy to move around your land at night and allow you to see everything that’s going on around you without letting anyone or anything know you’re there.
Even just going out for a stroll through the night can be much more soothing with night vision goggles. If you’re concerned about intruders or trespassers the night vision goggles let you get right up on them without alerting them to your presence.
Hunters – If you’re one of the millions of American hunters a pair of night vision goggles are a great investment. There are many game animals that only come out at night and are effectively impossible to hunt during the day.
These include deer, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits/hares, and especially feral hogs. In many parts of the country, feral hogs are breeding like wild. It’s gotten to the point where they’re causing millions and millions of dollars in damage to crops and fields (1).
Ask any hunter and they’ll tell you the same thing; night time is the best time to go hunting feral hogs. With night vision goggles you can see them but they can’t see you. It’s possible to stalk them and cull a whole group without them even noticing you’re there.
Preppers planning to bug out – If bugging out is a major part of your preparedness plan night vision goggles offer substantial benefits. If you need to evacuate at night during a major emergency you may not want to draw attention to your vehicle with headlights.
It’s not easy to drive with night vision goggles as they noticeably reduce your depth perception. So long as you pick out a good pair of binocular night vision goggles and train it can be done (2).
Competitive shooters – It may surprise you to learn that there’s an entire field of competitive shooting focused on night shooting. It depends on your local league and organizing authority, but there are some that allow the use of night vision goggles as part of the competition.
They’re a great way to take your love of shooting sports to the next level.
People concerned with home defense – When woken from a comfortable sleep to a bump in the night, the first thing you probably reach for is your locked and loaded firearm. A flashlight is probably kept with it, but night vision goggles are an even better option.
The biggest downside to a flashlight in a home or property defense situation is that it gives away your position. This is especially true if you’ve got a large home or property that you need to clear for safety.
Attackers have the chance to see your light trail and track it back to your position before you see them.
Night vision goggles have no such weakness. You’ll be able to see them as clear as day while they are still completely unaware that you’re there.
This gives you a tremendous tactical advantage when defending your family and property at night.
Nature lovers – Many of the most spectacular animals you’ll find only come out at night. Shining a light on them is a sure fire way to scare them off, and unless it’s a seriously bright night you won’t be able to see them well in the moonlight.
Night vision goggles allow you to watch bears, wolves, mountain lions, and other nocturnal animals in their natural environment. You can see everything they’re doing without alerting them to your presence with a beam of light.
Photographers – Taking photographs in low light conditions usually requires either a very long exposure or extremely expensive equipment. Many night vision goggles, especially monoculars, are designed to work with military optics and can be compatible with modern digital cameras.
You can pick up an adapter for practically nothing on the scale of camera equipment and take breathtaking night time pictures with a standard digital camera.
How we ranked
We considered five key factors when putting our list together. These were generation, effective range, monocular or binocular design, mounting options, and affordability.
Generation – The biggest factor in choosing night vision goggles is the generation. There are currently three acknowledged generations, with a quasi fourth generation that isn’t accepted by the U.S. military.
For the purposes of our list, we considered a few inexpensive Gen 1 goggles, and many high-quality Gen 2 and especially Gen 3 options. We won’t go into the (seriously complicated) technical differences that separate the different types of goggle tech but suffice it to say that gen 2 provides the first real tactically capable level of night vision goggles and Gen 3 is the top of the line.
Beyond that, there are sub-levels and specialized versions of each generation of night vision goggles. They add different benefits related to effectiveness, durability, or optics compatibility.
You may also see some Gen 4 devices, though this isn’t an officially recognized designation. Gen 4 is effectively equivalent to Gen 3+ in most performance measures (3).
Effective range – Closely related to the technical generation is the effective range. There are two key metrics used for night vision goggle range. These are the detection range and recognition range.
The detection range measures how far out you can detect something. Recognition is the distance at which you can identify what that object is. Most night vision goggles have a substantially longer detection range than they do recognition range.
Generation and optics quality play the biggest role in the effective range of night vision goggles. We took this into consideration when comparing different options.
Monocular or binocular – Picking between monocular and binocular night vision goggles are one of the biggest choices you’ll have to make. Monoculars are more common and less expensive.
They’re also natively compatible with shooting optics and highly versatile in where and how you wear them. Some goggle style night vision monoculars actually have two eyepieces looking through a single image tube. This cuts down on cost while still allowing a more natural feel.
True binocular night vision goggles are significantly more expensive for only marginal benefits to the average prepper. They offer better depth perception, but at about double the cost.
Mounting options – Where and how you can use your night vision goggles is almost as important as how effective they are. At the most basic we wanted the night vision goggles we considered to be helmet mountable.
Other useful features include rifle compatibility, camera mounts, and the ability to use them as either a handheld monocular or binocular style device. This only applies to monocular style night vision goggles.
Binocular goggles are only compatible with helmet or head strap mounting systems.
Affordability – We’re not going to try and sugar coat it: Night vision goggles are expensive. Even the most basic Gen 1 monoculars without tactical mounting are going to run several hundred dollars.
When we considered cost we looked at the value a specific pair of night vision goggles provided versus the additional price increase.
Brands we trust – With civilian night vision goggles, one brand stands head and shoulders above the rest. ATN is an industry leader in advanced night vision image tubes and other related technologies. Their products are well made and come in a range that starts with basic Gen 2 models all the way up to advanced Gen 3+. There have been some complaints about inconsistent quality control, but overall they’re one of the best options on the civilian market.
Eotech is another brand that many of you will recognize from the shooting sports world. They make some of the most advanced military-grade night vision in the world. Their products are absolutely top of the line, but way out of the price range of the average prepper. Many of them also require law enforcement or military affiliation for purchase.
Things to avoid – With night vision goggles the source and the brand are extremely important. The average pair of night vision goggles run into the thousands of dollars. There are tons of low-quality replicas, knock offs, and outright counterfeits out there. We recommend you only purchase night vision goggles new and from a highly reputable source.
We took these factors and ranked them based on importance. Every product on our list is a good option from a price to quality stand point. We did our best to include a good choice at every price point.
Night vision goggles allow you to see in near-total darkness – Modern night vision goggles are shockingly capable. They make it possible to see with just the tiniest amounts of natural light present. Newer Gen 3 models can provide you with stunningly bright nightscapes with just the smallest amount of natural lighting (4).
You won’t have exactly the same level of vision you would during daylight, but it’s a night/day improvement over unenhanced night vision. You’ll easily be able to get around and see anything coming at you during the night.
Night vision goggles don’t reveal your position – One of the biggest benefits of night vision goggles is their ability to work passively. Gen 2 and Gen 3 night vision goggles don’t require a source of IR light to function.
They rely on image enhancement to gather all the tiny bits of light available on even a dark night. The details are incredibly technical, but the outcome is a clear view of the outside world without any emitted light (5).
This gives you a massive advantage over a flashlight or other active light source. You have full visibility without giving away your position and alerting any potential bad actors.
Night vision goggles offer a significant tactical advantage – It’s impossible to overstate how much of an advantage you have when you can see in the dark and your opponent can’t. We mentioned above that night vision goggles don’t give away your position, but think about the other benefits they offer.
Even the best tactical flashlights can only illuminate so much of the area around you. Night vision goggles give you instant clarity in any direction you look.
This lets you maneuver, take up a position, and covertly monitor bad actors while they’re stumbling around in the dark. If you’re forced to take action you’ll have full visibility of all their movements while they’re still blinded by the muzzle flashes.
Night vision goggles make the night come alive – Night vision goggles can make sense even if you aren’t concerned about night fighting. Beyond their base practicality, walking around at night with night vision goggles is really cool and fun.
You can see everything that goes on in the dark that would otherwise be hidden from you. There are all kinds of animals that never come out during the daytime and scurry into hiding if you shine a light on them.
Night vision goggles let you experience things on a simple walk in the dark you otherwise never would.
Night vision goggles are compatible with many modern rifles, cameras, and other high-end equipment – Depending on the model and type of night vision goggle you may be able to use it with your existing gear. Most quality night vision monoculars were designed specifically to integrate with modern optics and tactical gear.
High-quality holographic sights, in particular, are designed to appear clearly when viewed through a pair of night vision goggles. It isn’t only shooting that can be enhanced with night vision.
Modern digital cameras and recording equipment can easily be integrated with night vision gear. This allows you to shoot stunning night-time photographs that you otherwise wouldn’t ever see.
Q: How do night vision goggles work?
A: Night vision goggles use a mix of complicated technologies to work. We won’t go into the technical details here but the basic explanation is that they intensify and enhance the existing light during the night. While the human eye may not be able to see it, there’s almost always infrared and other types of light present in the dark. Night vision goggles intensify this infrared light and make it visible to the human eye (6).
Q: How well do night vision goggles work?
A: Night vision goggles are highly effective. Just how effective depends on the specific generation and technical specifications of an individual pair, but in general they’re great. They can take a near pitch-black night and light it up almost to daylight levels. When paired with an IR illuminator even the darkest places can be viewed through night vision goggles.
Q: Are night vision goggles legal?
A: In the U.S. night vision goggles are completely legal to own and use for citizens in all 50 states. This includes California and other states that many think of as unfriendly to tactical gear. One thing to keep in mind though is that night vision goggles are a named item under U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
U.S. citizens can own and use night vision within the borders of America, but may not under any circumstances take or export them to other countries. It’s also forbidden to allow non-U.S. citizens to use, handle, or look through Gen 3 and up night vision devices (7). Take this seriously, as violations of ITAR are felony-level crimes.
Q: Can night vision goggles blind you?
A: No. There have been urban legends and rumors going around for years about the potential for night vision goggles to blind their wearers, but thankfully they’re just rumors. The design of night vision goggles does intensify existing light, but even if an extremely bright light is shined into them you wouldn’t be blinded (8).
Q: Do night vision goggles work in total darkness?
A: No. Night vision goggles work by intensifying and enhancing both visible and infrared spectrum light. If there’s no light at all there’s nothing for the IR intensifier to work with. You can get around this with an IR illuminator. This is basically just an infrared flashlight. In a true combat situation it can reveal your position to other night vision goggle users, but for most preppers it’s unlikely anyone attacking them will have night vision capabilities.
If you want to pick up an IR illuminator to go with your night vision goggles we recommend the Steiner DBAL-A.
Q: Why are night vision goggles green?
A: The color of night vision goggles is determined by the type of phosphors applied to the phosphor screen. The light collected and intensified in the image tube of night vision goggles are projected onto a phosphor screen to give them color. Green is the most common because it’s the color our eyes are most sensitive to. The newest generation of night vision goggles actually uses white phosphors now (9).
Q: Can night vision goggles see infrared (IR) light?
A: Yes. The basic principles of night vision goggles rely on the collection of infrared light that humans can’t naturally see. The image tubes inside night vision goggles convert the infrared light into electrons and project them onto a phosphor screen. That’s what creates the visible image we can see.
Q: What night vision goggles do the military use?
A: The U.S. military uses a variety of night vision devices depending on the branch, combat arm, and even mission purpose. There are multiple manufacturers who provide standardized products to different branches. The most commonly used are the monocular AN/PVS-14 and older dual eyed monocular AN/PVS-7. There are widely available civilian variants of both these products available from a range of manufacturers (10).
Our pic for best PVS-7 night vision goggles is the ATN NVG7-2.
Our pick for the best PVS-14 night vision goggles, also our overall pick, is the ATN PVS14-3.
Q: Are night vision goggles bad for your eyes?
A: No. While looking through night vision goggles is different from using natural lighting, it isn’t any worse for your eyes. The U.S. Military has done prolonged and extensive testing to verify that this is true. This is especially true given the widespread use of smartphones, tablets, and other computer screens in modern life (11).
Q: Can night vision goggles see through fog and smoke?
A: It depends. True image intensifying night vision goggles cannot. They use the same basic visibility as natural light and cannot see through things like fog or smoke. When many people talk about night vision goggles, they’re also including thermal optics. These can see through fog or smoke so long as they aren’t producing a temperature differential that obscures vehicle and body heat.
Q: What are the best night vision goggles for kids?
A: While they don’t make night vision goggles specifically designed for children, most kids old enough to be allowed to use ones should be able to use regular night vision. We recommend a monocular style as this makes it easier to line up the sight with their eyes. Keep in mind too that you should only allow kids to use your night vision if you really, really trust them to hold something that costs thousands of dollars and will probably break if they drop it.
Our pick for the best night vision goggles for kids is the ATN PVS14-3.
Q: What are the best tactical night vision goggles?
A: Given that all night vision goggles are descended from military equipment just about any will work in a tactical situation. With the constraints of modern rifle shooting and the advanced optics like holographic sites available there are some that stand out. We recommend a monocular night vision goggle like the AN/PVS-14. They’re more compatible with modern rifle shooting than binocular style goggles.
Night vision goggles offer substantial tactical and practical benefits to the modern prepper. They effectively allow you to see in the dark and can give you a pronounced edge over less well equipped night time attackers.
Modern night vision goggles are expensive, but they’re more attainable and higher quality than they were in the past.
For Survival At Home’s #1 night vision goggles recommendation, click here.
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