What is a Night Scope?

Mitch Morgan

The night scope is a merging of two existing technologies, the telescopic sight and the night vision device (NVD), into one unit. Developed for use by the military, law enforcement, sportsmen, and others during nighttime excursions, the night scope combines the range and accuracy of a spotting scope or rifle scope with the ability to see in extremely low-light or dark environments. The monocular NVD may be purchased as a stand-alone unit or as an add-on to be combined with an existing rifle scope.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

Civilian use of NVDs like the night vision scope continues to expand as its range of users widens to include bird watchers, natural science researchers, film directors, and others. It is a must for wild game hunters wishing to continue their hobby after sunset. Aside from its use in the great outdoors, the night scope may help in patrols and surveillance by security officials who oversee an important operation or business.

Night vision was made possible by Stanford University engineering professor William Spicer, and was first used by the U.S. Army during World War Two. Though the devices aided military personnel engaging in nighttime combat, the unit's heavy weight and large size proved a major setback for users of the innovation. The technology has since been modernized into lightweight, pocket-size devices with a range of functions that may include built-in cameras and motion sensors.

The night scope replaces the reticle illumination option found on some earlier rifle scopes, a feature which enabled the user to achieve better visibility in low-light conditions. With the emergence of active infrared night vision, users may now view a subject in total darkness. Due to its detection by night vision goggles, however, active infrared light is rarely used by the military. The flashlight has likewise taken a back seat to these devices, as night vision units become more affordable and mass produced.

Consumers in the market for a night scope should consider a few things before making a purchase. The buyer should consider what magnification level he or she will need. Though it is important to find a night scope with ample magnification, the feature may narrow the user’s field of view if magnification is too powerful for a close-range job. A variety of reticles, commonly known as crosshairs, are also available for different purposes. Durability, price, and quality are other factors one should consider before purchasing a night scope.

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