How to Choose the Right Night Vision Product

With so many night vision products on the market, from compact monoculars to larger night vision goggles, it can be hard to know where to begin. Here at, we carry a wide assortment of night vision products at a variety of price points. Below, you'll find some important information about night vision optics to keep in mind.



You may have heard about different "generations" of night vision technology. But what exactly are the key differences between generations? Whether you’re looking for a user-friendly monocular for some camping fun, or a military-grade night vision rifle scope for a special hunt, it's important to understand the technology you're purchasing.

Generation 1 Night Vision is the most affordable and basic type of night vision device on the market today. Introduced during the Vietnam War, 1st generation night vision is vacuum-sealed and gathers existing ambient light though its front lens. The maximum range you can usually see with a generation 1 unit is about 70 yards depending on the night and the brightness of your ambient light source. First generation night vision is ideal for the budget minded recreational user and makes a great addition to your camping or boating gear.

Generation 2 Night Vision delivers a dramatic increase in image quality compared to first generation.  Unfortunately, the price increase is quite significant as well.  Primarily used by law enforcement, 2nd generation units add a micro-channel plate, which works as an electron amplifier.  The micro-channel plate consists of millions of different short parallel glass tubes. When the electrons pass through these tubes, thousands more electrons are released.  This process allows 2nd generation units to amplify light many more times giving you a much sharper image then the 1st generation device. Second generation is ideal for serious hunters, law enforcement, and special operations. 

Generation 3 Night Vision maintains the micro-channel plate from the Gen II, but also use a photocathode made with gallium arsenide, which further improves image resolution. In addition, the micro-channel plate is coated with an ion barrier film for increased tube life.  Used by the U.S Military and Special Forces, 3rd generation night vision is the best there is. 

Digital Night Vision has multiple advantages over the more conventional intensifier tube night vision units.  Image quality, price, and performance are just a few of the advantages to going digital. 


Night Vision Model Types

Now that you understand the basics of night vision technology, you're ready to choose the type of night vision product that best fits your needs. This summary will guide you through your options.

Night Vision Monoculars are single lens devices with incredible versatility. Lightweight and compact, most monoculars are ideal for mounting to your head or a helmet. 

Night Vision Binoculars are dual lens devices that generally provide added magnification. They require two hands for optimal shake-free performance. For long distance viewing, night vision binoculars are your best bet.

Night Vision Goggles are also dual lens devices, but tend to be more compact, so they can be mounted to your head or helmet.  Since they are used for navigating, googles usually do not provide any magnification, but added magnification is available if your mission requires it.

Night Vision Weapon Sights are night vision rifle scopes that mount directly to your weapon.  They are generally heavier and larger than your normal daytime rifle scope.


Still have questions?

Need personalized advice for choosing night vision optics? Give our experts a call at the number listed below. We want to help make your night vision device purchase a great experience. 

Ask The Experts

Have questions about an item or need advice on selecting the right optic? Our team of experts is here to help! Avid outdoor enthusiasts themselves, they've tested gear in the field and can provide personalized product recommendations for just about any activity, from birding and hunting to sports and travel.

You can reach our Customer Support line at 1-800-246-6285. We're open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

After hours? Drop us an email at We'll get back to you as soon as possible, usually within 1 business day.