Thermal Imaging vs. Night Vision (HT to

Posted: 08/08/2015 in Uncategorized

I’ve been delinquent in answering the questions forwarded to the blog comments section lately. It’s been a very busy summer. I know, “What’s the maximum effective range of an excuse?” …… Zero meters Sarn’t.

So a fellow blogger picked up my slack and not only answered the question but did a pretty good job while he was at it. A little copy and paste and here you have it from If you have a few minutes, go check out his blog.

weston.pecos, My experience with thermals vs. NODS is based on 7 years in the US Army Infantry. I’ve had the opportunity to use the AN/PAS 13 (multiple variations), as well as the SkeetIR and MTM(Mini Thermal Monocular). As far as NODs go, I’ve used both the AN/PVS-7’s and AN/PVS-14’s. I’ve messed with a set of some whiz-bang combo where the thermals are overlayed(slightly offset, orange in color, and you can use each individually or together) with our armorer in Afghanistan for a few minutes, and they seemed interesting. I prefer the thermal imaging 95% of the time. If given the choice, I would grab the SkeetIR over any normal NOD that I’ve used. However, the version I used was in 2012 at NTC and had some software bugs. Essentially, my peeve against standard NODs is that even through it enhances the image, you still have to deal with shadows. Granted it’s not hard to hide from thermals to begin with, it’s stupid easy to not catch something in the shadows with NODs. This is especially true when ambient illumination is low(woods, urban environments, palm groves). Now, if you’re in the open desert with a full moon above you, a set of AN/PVS-14’s are nice to have. But after a “COP Defense” at night with partial illum on a mountain, and a set of the 14’s in one hand a SkeetIR in the other, going back and forth between the two as the action is going down, I wanted to take the SkeetIR home with me. TI doesn’t have any issues with shadows. In the end though, it’s what you can afford. I would recommend your group/tribe try to find someone with examples of both that is willing to let you try them out one evening(if possible), otherwise if it were me, I’d attempt to have the group invest in at least one of each. IIRC, a decent set of AN/PVS-14’s runs about $3-4 K US. However, I haven’t looked at the price of them in a while. I have no idea at this time what a decent set of thermals would run. Hope this helps.


Back to DM. I concur with his entire article. Just remember that most non-thermal night vision equipment amplifies (intensifies) existing light. If you’re working in extremely overcast conditions, or in a dark building, it’s effectiveness will be drastically diminished.  If OPFOR is good with camo and concealment, (stay in the shadows boys and girls) they will probably defeat your light-enhancing equipment. TI, not so easy.

  1. Kind words, Sarn’t. I appreciate it. I do what I can.

  2. .weston.pecos. says:

    Thanks, guys. Intuitively, the T.I. stuff seems like it would be better than Image Intensifiers for my AO (small/medium city with lots of light industry and farmland nearby) to be able to “see” what’s going on in the dark, in emergency/clandestine situations. But I was getting thrown off by the fact that Thermal can not see through glass. I guess that is not so much of a detraction, after all.

    Are there any portable (monocular or “scope” type) digital infrared systems out there yet? I’ve got hard-wired, house current-powered security cameras around the homestead with digital IR at night, and the images are quite good, actually. I can see clearly across my backyard at night (no external lights). And, where there is ambient light, such as the front yard with street lights and the passing car headlights, the images are pretty darn close to daylight, albeit with black-and-white vs. daytime’s color. Digital IR does not seem to have shadows. If I go outside at night and stand in the front yard, those street lights and passing car headlights just do not give me the same degree of visual information, and they do give me shadow fields, compared to the security camera images from the digital IR. Is there any kind of battery-operated, portable application for digital IR yet? Then again, I’ve never looked through a thermal monocular, so maybe in an urban area with street lights you get the same kind images that I am describing for digital IR?

    Anyway, thanks again for answering my questions.


    • danmorgan76 says:

      Pecos, There are a ton of devices on the civilian market. Here’s a link to the most common for tactical use: Keep in mind the hand-held devices fall into a couple of categories: Primarily Thermal Imagers and Thermal Cameras. The cameras usually have options for storage (image capture)and later playback or downloading of images. These are great when you are in surveillance mode and need to capture an image on a storage device for later lookup or to send the image to the rear by radio or courier. They are usually bulkier and consume more power, not to mention the display screens are usually bigger and give off a lot of light at night. Usually directly into your face. Bad juju if you are being watched with the same devices. We usually use a hood over the rear of the device and our heads when using these.

      The imagers come in a million combinations: monocular, binocular, weapons mounted, hand-held, or combination, zoom or fixed power, some have image capture and some have a nifty mode known as image fusion. Image fusion combines the daylight or infrared light illuminated image with the thermal image to give the viewer a sharper display image. You name it it’s out there. What to buy? If you have an unlimited budget, then base it on METT-TC. If you are like us, buy the best you can afford. I would peruse the web for reviews and videos. Most major gun shows will have a few venders hawking their wares and will usually let you take a look at the devices. Hope this helped.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.