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Old April 30, 2018, 02:44 PM   #1
Murby
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Night Vision or Thermal for Defense?

Hi guys,
I'm considering purchasing a night sight device for tactical purposes.

I live in a rural area that is 50% wooded, 50% open farm field and about 2 miles from a town of around 2500 people. My property is surrounded by cornfields, cows and wooded areas as is the entire general area.

Lots of 30 yard wide tree lines between fields around here, roads are mostly lined with trees everywhere.

Assuming a security scenario, would you prefer a thermal sight or a night vision sight?

My budget is around $3500 to $4000 and I've been considering one of the PVS14 units but am wondering if I should go with a thermal unit instead..

The thing I like about the PVS14 is that it can be helmet mounted or weapon mounted.. so there's some flexibility with being able to flip flop it back and forth.

The problem with night vision is that it doesn't detect camouflaged objects in the wooded areas very well.. whereas a thermal sight would pick them right out. Night vision seems to require that a target either be illuminated somehow (smoking, small led or flashlight, campfire, etc) , or physically moving to see it though wooded clutter and such.

The problem with the thermal sites is that they are large and bulky, don't have the helmet mount options, are far more expensive for the high quality units, and don't have the option of flip flopping from weapon to hand held or helmet mounted.

So what's your opinion? Which one would you rather have?

I was going to post this in the gear subforum but decided this is more of a tactical question..

Last edited by Murby; April 30, 2018 at 04:18 PM.
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Old April 30, 2018, 04:36 PM   #2
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I personally like thermal. My suggestion would be the APEX either XD38A or XD50A. These units are an incredible value at under 4K. They have 384x288 cores with independent brightness and contrast, display off, multiple user profiles, 3 year warranty, and the list goes on...
I would also suggest running the APEX units on an external battery because it saves money and you can run the scopes literally all night long. I haven't tested past 12 hours of battery life on the APEX but I estimate it's around 18 hours on the EPS5 battery.
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Old April 30, 2018, 08:00 PM   #3
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Thermal is the only possible way of detecting well concealed objects among clutter. If you can't see something well during daylight, night vision will work poorly too.

Are you convinced that you are going to be shooting at bad guys hidden in a hedgerow? That's not a particularly plausible concern for a defensive scenario. If you are, indeed, at risk of having creepers out at rifle distance that need to die, you want clear evidence of what is at the end of the trajectory. A bright red silhouette is unmistakable, no amount of outer camouflage or debris can hide the heat.

You would be better off checking with predator hunters, who hunt at night. The English shoot hares and Fox at night, using night vision and rimfire, but you won't find hares buried behind twenty feet of clutter.

Be careful about having that thing out. Fish and game laws in places don't like seeing people equipped that way, they assume that only a poacher would be out at night carrying such a rifle.
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Old April 30, 2018, 08:04 PM   #4
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If you are concerned about prowlers wear the home, change the home a bit. Put up heavier curtains or blinds and move light sources to the outer walls. Don't let the lurkers see your shadow.
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Old April 30, 2018, 08:57 PM   #5
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What is the specific threat you want to protect against? That will help narrow the solution vs. saying you live in a rural area surrounded by cows and corn.
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Old April 30, 2018, 09:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
What is the specific threat you want to protect against?
This was a SHTF question and got locked. So, he is posing it as a SD question.

Ive used both NV and Thermal. The thermal has a wider range of conditions that it is useful in. If you have the ability to bring an IR light source into play the NV’s usefulness expands.

The Thermals ability to see people in thick brush is a BIG advantage in wooded areas.
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Old April 30, 2018, 09:33 PM   #7
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For that Sharkbite, he can add illuminators around the property out to 200 yards and use NV goggles.
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Old April 30, 2018, 10:21 PM   #8
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It is a pretty irregular defense question. The likelihood of a justifiable defense shooting at distance, at night, where one must use thermal or NV optics to detect/ID the person you are defending yourself from is exceedingly low. That said, I'll go for the academic discussion.

Thermal is much better for detecting people in cluttered environments. It is more difficult to disguise a heat signature than a visual signature. So, for seeing something/someone is there, thermal is better.

For actually identifying a person as a threat, NV tends to perform better. We humans are used to using visual processing rather than heat signatures. Further, NVGs usually have better clarity of subjects versus straight thermal sensors. For determining if a person is a valid threat, NV is usually better.
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Old May 1, 2018, 12:51 AM   #9
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Just for the record, I don't want to shoot anything or anyone.. just want to know they're there.. which is why the helmet or hand held mounts are so appealing to me. But if I'm going to spend a few grand, it would be nice to have the option of mounting it on a weapon.

One other question.. can these devices detect thermal signatures coming from a home? You know, when they shine those thermal cameras at your windows and doors to see heat leaking out of the house?
Are they sensitive enough to show where a home needs more caulking or insulation? Or is that a different kind of software or sensor?
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Old May 1, 2018, 06:53 AM   #10
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I'm really not sure what kind of scenario you have in mind.

I suspect you'd be better off with $4k of security lights, cameras, motion detectors, entry hardening, and other stuff.
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Old May 1, 2018, 07:22 AM   #11
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I'm with others who have noted this is a questionable self defense issue.

Let me start backwards. I ask myself "would this bit of information make me inclined to convict if I was on the jury" and the use of night vision would.

You would have to have a pretty good explanation what type of self defense scenario allowed you time to use night vision and the line of thought that had it readily available for such situation.
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Old May 1, 2018, 08:17 AM   #12
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There are very simple and inexpensive devices available to test for heat leakage at interfaces of the home.
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Old May 1, 2018, 09:09 AM   #13
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Thanks to Siggy06 for the suggestions. Checking out Pulsar on youtube now. Pretty nice stuff and a reasonable price.
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Old May 1, 2018, 09:33 AM   #14
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if you cant see or cant find your potential attacker, how are they an imminent threat to you?

What are you developing a defense against?
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Old May 1, 2018, 10:18 AM   #15
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NV works through glass while thermal does not. You could look out your window with night vision and if you saw someone trying to break into your shed, you could call police. With thermal, you would have to open a window or go outside to see. Of course with motion detector activated flood lights, you might be even better off.
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Old May 1, 2018, 12:04 PM   #16
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"...this is more of a tactical question..." Nope. Logistics. Being surrounded by corn and cows, how far away the woods are matters. None of it is clear enough to allow you to positively ID any human wandering around in the dark at any distance. Even close in. If a bad guy isn't about to do you or your's imminent bodily harm, you cannot just shoot .
And pretty much all NV/IR kit is hard on one's vision. You'd be better off with several big strong flood lights.
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Old May 1, 2018, 01:44 PM   #17
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Flood lights, like tracers, work both ways. Unless you provide 360 perimeter lighting, and can monitor all 360 degrees 100% of the time, its deterrent only. Effective, but its just a deterrent. Not to start a pi$$ing battle, but just because you can't see, or find, a threat does not eliminate it from being a threat.

Go thermal.

You might also look at the products from Ring. I use them and love them. www.ring.com
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Old May 3, 2018, 07:41 PM   #18
Murby
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Its looking like I'm going to go thermal.. (thanks to Siggy for the Pulsar suggestion)
I really like the Pulsar XQ50.. The thermal doesn't seem to be as flexible as the night vision, but its detection abilities are hands-down far better.
Pulsar seems to also offer a return-to-zero quick mount so going handheld is still an option.
I also like the fact that the pulsar unit runs on 18650 batteries as I have over 800 of them.. and the price is right..
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Old May 3, 2018, 10:58 PM   #19
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I have both, night vision is neat and has some applications but with thermal I can see a mouse 88 yards off my balcony.

From time to time I walk out there to see what the level is on my propane tank, yeah you can see the liquid level because of the difference in heat where the liquid vs gas are and a mouse hiding under it (set on “white hot”) looks like a birthday candle.

With night vision, you wouldn’t see any of that. With thermal I can even see where things were recently, like foot steps or where an animal was bedded down, no way NV could do that.

If your a “prepper” type, thermal can even show you circuit/wire/breaker load by heat or if a radiator for a cooling system is functioning correctly and in an instant, at a distance if a vehicle has been operated recently. All things NV can’t do.

All that said for defense passive motion sensors would be far more effective that something you would have to be constantly scanning/using. You have to sleep and anyone on offense would wait until you were tired. Same reason you don’t need a alarm while your sitting in your car, it for when you can’t give it your direct attention.
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Old May 3, 2018, 11:05 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T. O'Heir View Post
"...this is more of a tactical question..." Nope. Logistics. Being surrounded by corn and cows, how far away the woods are matters. None of it is clear enough to allow you to positively ID any human wandering around in the dark at any distance. Even close in. If a bad guy isn't about to do you or your's imminent bodily harm, you cannot just shoot .
And pretty much all NV/IR kit is hard on one's vision. You'd be better off with several big strong flood lights.
Aside from not answering the OP's question, you don't seem to know what you're talking about. Maybe just stick to identifying C&R for folks.

Anyway, if you can afford the thermal, I would go for it over the IR. If it can be weapon mounted then it likely won't be too clumsy to work as a handheld. Though the PVS14 optic you mentioned are very handy in any configuration and are quite light.
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Old May 4, 2018, 05:09 AM   #21
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You're welcome Murby! Enjoy your new optics.
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Old May 4, 2018, 01:51 PM   #22
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I'm not even going to get I to the question of 'Tatics/Tactical', everyone has a different definition...

From someone that has been military field deployed with both,

Light amplification pros/cons,
Battery life is a pro, batteries last a LOT longer.
Cost is a pro, an acceptable unit being 1/3 to 1/4 the cost of an acceptable thermal unit.
Utility is a pro, easily switches from firearm to hand held or headgear mounts.
Light Amplification can be greatly extended for range (dirt cheap too!) Without having to use a projected light source from the optic itself.

Cons include range, you need a projected light source on overcast nights or in dark places like caves or bunkers. (Illuminators)
The light source lights YOU up for anyone that also has light amplification, and some thermals will pick up even LED illuminators.
Most are damaged by bright flashes or bright lights, even with the sun shield in place. While the instructions say it's light protected, the extra bright light will damage the CCD and you WILL get 'Black' (dead) spots in the optic. (Muzzle flash & lasers included).
This isn't an issue for military troops that get replacements for free, but when you are throwing out your own bucks, its a consideration...

-----

Cons on thermal, Lower end thermals will loose efficiency on very hot days (or when ground temp is close to body temp)
Extreme cold and even the military units blacked out entirely, that may be solved by now, that was some years back...

Thermals are defeated entirely by something as simple as a sleeping pad or yoga mat (insulation that masks body heat)
Thermals can be defeated by the 99 cent 'Space Blankets'.
Thermals eat batteries, unless a LOT has changed in the last 5 years, you will be replacing batteries about 8 to 1.
There is no way to extend the range of a thermal other than simply buying a better unit.

Pro, Really high end thermals will see a limited ways through fog (water droplets will eventually mask the thermal signature) and they will see through smoke.
Thermals will make targets jump out from background, but you can become complacent and miss masked signatures with this level of contrast.

As mentioned before, with a really high end thermals, you can see heat from hand, foot or butt prints for a short while.
Since you are seeing heat signature, it's VERY easy to identify a 'Target' from the random bird, opossum or house cat.

-----------

Con on both, no depth perception or range estimations!
You don't know if the 'Dip' in front of you is 6 inches or 6 feet.
Unless it's a dedicated weapons sight, neither will have reticle or any scale for range estimation.

------------

As mentioned before, motion detectors are cheap & handy.
Infrared LEDs on a motion detector lights up the area around it, GREATLY increasing the range of light amplification units, and also will alert you 'Something' is moving, without tipping off the 'Something'.

Dusk to Dawn (garden path) lights are dirt cheap, and when visible light LEDs are replaced with infrared, are completely invisible to anyone without night vision.
Dusk to Dawn lights are dirt cheap, come with solar chargers, battery packs, mounting stakes and only require a visible light to infrared LED change.
(I use them varmint hunting a bunch, outer perimeter motion detector to let me know something is coming, inner shooting field full time 'On' to allow for positive identification. Don't want to mistake the dog for a coyote or hog)
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Old May 4, 2018, 01:54 PM   #23
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I could think of much better ways to spend $4,000. Some people live in a fantasy world.
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Old May 4, 2018, 02:18 PM   #24
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$4,000 ?
Our thermal weapons sights cost $15,000, a really top end civilian, entry level military grade weapons sight is about $12,000 now.

You can pick up 'Consumer' grade hand held/head gear mounted light amplification that's pretty good for around $250-$450 (see boating applications so they are water proof),
While civilian consumer grade light amplification weapons sights are still $750-$1,000 up to several thousand for military grade.

1st & 2nd generation will give you eye cancer and/or destroy the retina from radiation. (See anything from Russia, Starlight Gen 1 & Gen 2).

Older Gen 1 & Gen 2 usually used proprietary batteries and ate batteries like crazy, while Gen 3 & 4 worked on MUCH less power (and threw off much less radiation) so the batteries lasted longer.
Just try and find a 72 or 96 volt battery for some of the imported Gen 1 units now...
Gen 3 often works on fairly common 3 volt (123) or 9 volt batteries & some Gen 4s operate off common AA batteries.

I won't have the 'Button' cell versions anymore, not when AA, 9 volt or 123 battery versions are available.

Anything under about 25,000X magnification (of light) and a young, well adjusted eyeball can do almost as well,
Older eyes need to start looking into 35,000X light magnification and up.

Dedicated weapons sights often have magnification, and military grade weapons sights have indicators letting you know when laser or infrared (non-visible) light is directed your way.
That's to let you know the bad guys are hunting in your area with night vision... Time to turn off anything that radiates, keep you thermal signature, cover & concealment up so they don't find you...

Last edited by JeepHammer; May 4, 2018 at 02:26 PM.
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Old May 4, 2018, 05:20 PM   #25
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Like someone else said, if you can't see it in daylight, nightvision will not add value in the same scenario.

I guess what some here don't understand is that you don't necessary have to shoot someone 200 yards away. Sometimes it just good to know there isn't anyone out there, hence, the thermal route. Personally, I'd get a thermal monocular. Keep in mind, if you nail a prospective BG at 100 yards, there's going to be questions and paperwork even if your closest neighbor is a couple of miles away.

If it ever does get THAT bad, thermal ain't gonna do much good. Time for anti-personnel and all other kinds of nasty stuff.
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