When it comes to shooting guns during lowlight conditions, being able to make use of night vision equipment (NVGs) can give a shooter huge advantages over threats that lack a similar capability. Over the next few blog entries, we are going to delve into the world of night vision some and look at the tactics side of things in addition to the gear used to see and shoot at night.
The first topic we are going to look at is the concept of active versus passive aiming. In the world of NVG-based shooting, shooting is accomplished via two ways. A shooter is either going to make use of an infrared (IR) laser that can only be seen through NVGs or he is going to look through his optic, making use of the reticle, as he would during any other time.
Making use of the laser is what we call “active” aiming. When we do this, we are manually firing the laser by pressing a button located either on the device or a remote switch wired to the device. The pressure on this switch typically only fires the laser as long as the switch is pressed though it is possible to fire the laser and keep it active until the switch is pressed again. When the laser fires, often the illuminator (think of it as an IR flashlight) is also activated. To a person without NVGs, nothing is typically seen (there are some exceptions when it comes to illuminators but that’s for another time) since the energy being projected is in the infrared spectrum and the human eye is unable to see this. Now, if a person is using NVGs then the beam of the laser and illuminator is easily seen and can be traced back to the shooter’s position.
Since the laser and illuminator are visible to people also using NVGs, it is imperative that the laser and illuminator only be activated when they are needed. While many people think that NVGs aren’t that common outside of the military don’t fall into that trap. NVGs are A LOT more common than many people think. In fact there have been rioters and people running protection for rioters in major cities in the US making use of NVGs. Take a look at this photo of guy that was running protection for rioters that was recently arrested for some of his activities. Notice the NVGs on his helmet?
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the tactic of “passive” aiming. When a shooter is using a passive method, he generally is using the optic mounted to his firearm (typically a red dot optic like an Aimpoint or EoTech) to aim the gun. Since the shooter is using the reticle inside the optic to aim the gun, there isn’t any IR energy projected from the gun. Without any IR signature being present, an opponent looking for the shooter using NVGs is less likely to spot the shooter due to a projection of IR energy.
While not projecting IR energy sounds like a good thing, remember that you still have to be able to identify what you are about to shoot. So there is a good chance that you may have to make use of your illuminator to initially identify potential threats.
With that being said, each method has its place and shooter should be familiar with both. If possible, try to set your firearms up so that you can use both methods. This will enable you to have options in a fight. If you cannot set up your guns in a way that you want, you still need to be familiar with both methods.
Until next time