Military Grade Night Vision Goggles: Is a PVS7 for You?

ATN PVS7-3 Night Vision Goggles
ATN PVS7-3 Night Vision Goggles

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Our armed forces have been using them successfully for years.

Military grade night vision goggles have, for the most part, eliminated their need to carry flashlights. They can wear them on their heads or helmets, leaving their hands free for carrying other gear and for performing other tasks.

The PVS7 (also seen with the dash as the PVS-7 or the slash as the AN/PVS7) is pretty much the go-to set when it comes to military grade goggles.

Let’s take a look at the offerings from ATN and Armasight (FLIR). We’ll see what they’re made of and what they can do, to help you see if one of the available versions of the PVS7 is for you.

If you’re in a hurry and already know you want one of these ATN models, just click the link to see it on Amazon.

Or if you prefer the Armasight brand, use these links.

If you see a section that interests you in the table below, click it to go there immediately. Otherwise, you can just keep reading below.

Who Makes the PVS7 Night Vision Goggles?

It’s a little more difficult to explain who makes the PVS7 than it is for most other optics. The problem is that PVS7 is not so much a model name as it is a description of the device.

The full name AN/PVS7 stands for Army Navy Portable Visual Search (number 7). That seems to say that this Gen 3 product is the 7th version of the device and one that passed military specifications, thus making them military grade goggles. The PVS5 was a Gen 2 device used in Vietnam.

PVS can also stand for Personal Vision System.

There are two big names – ATN and Armasight – that each offer a similar product. ATN names theirs the NVG7, and Armasight’s device is simply called the PVS7. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll see names like ITT also mentioned as developers.

Each company makes more than one version of the PVS7. And each company’s product is a little different than the other’s. When it comes down to it though, they are all PVS7 night vision goggles.

What PVS7 Models Does ATN Make?

ATN currently has four models for their PVS7 goggles. They are designated by their night vision generation as NVG7-2, NVG7-WPT (white phosphor technology), NVG7-3, and NVG7-3P.

These model IDs correspond to the PVS7-2, PVS7-WPT, PVS7-3, and PVS7-3P in the Amazon links above.

The main difference between the last two is that the 3P uses the Pinnacle image intensifier tube (IIT). You may also see an image intensifier tube called I2.

As you move up the scale from NVG7-2 through NVG7-3P, as you would expect, the components get a little better and the price goes up a little more.

Get the ATN PVS7-3P Night Vision Goggle at Amazon.

Several features remain the same from one model (including the Armasight models) to the next. All have just 1x magnification and a 40-degree field of view.

The range of focus is from 0.25 yards (or meters) to infinity. All have an automatic brightness control, bright light cut-off, infrared (IR) indicator, and low battery indicator.

The operating temperature of each ranges from -40 degrees (F.) to 122 degrees. The storage temperature goes from -55 degrees to 158 degrees. Finally, all have a 2-year warranty.

The diopter, which allows you to adjust the focus for one eye, has adjustments from -6 to +2, except (according to the ATN site) for the NVG7-3 which is -2 to +6 (though that may just be a typographical error on the site). In either case, this gives you nine possible settings for the diopter.

The rest of the features discussed in this section apply only to the ATN models.

All four ATN models are rated as water resistant, which is generally lower in quality than waterproof. If you really need a waterproof model, check out the Armasight models instead.

Each model has what ATN calls Proshield lens coating and their Total Darkness IR System. You can kind of guess from the names what each of those things does, but actual descriptions of them are not easy to find.

One would hope that Proshield coating means multi-coating on all glass surfaces, but I can’t verify that at this time.

Total Darkness IR sounds like you should be able to use the infrared capabilities no matter how much ambient light is available and probably without attracting attention to yourself.

The remaining features of the NVG7-2, NVG7-WPT, and NVG7-3P are all the same except for resolution, which is really the distinctive feature from one model to the next and which will be covered below.

The NVG7-3 differs from the other three models is several other areas. It is just slightly bigger and heavier, weighing 0.4 pounds more than the others at 1.5 pounds.

It takes 2 AA batteries (instead of just one 3V battery), which should last 50 hours (instead of the 60 estimated for the other models).

The lens system is f/1.1 and 35mm, as opposed to the f/1.2 and 26mm featured in the other three.

Finally, the resolution of the NVG7-2 is 40-45 lp/mm (line pairs per millimeter). The NVG7-WPT has 60-74 lp/mm. The NVG7-3 gives you 64 lp/mm, and the NVG7-3P has 64-72 lp/mm. This gives the NVG7-3P the clearest picture of all ATN models. (It’s also the highest available in the Armasight models.)

Here is a summary of model vs resolution.

Model Resolution (lp/mm)
NVG7-2 40-45
NVG7-WPT 60-74
NVG7-3 64
NVG7-3P 64-72

What PVS7 Models Does Armasight Make?

Update: In June of 2016, FLIR acquired the Armasight company. I don’t know if they will be keeping the Armasight brand name on their products.

Armasight has a whopping 8 different PVS7 models.

  • PVS-7 GEN 2+ HD (high definition)
  • PVS-7 GEN 2+ ID (improved definition with manual gain)
  • PVS-7 GEN 2+ QS
  • PVS-7 GEN 2+ SD (standard definition)
  • PVS-7 GEN 3+ Alpha (high performance)
  • PVS-7 GEN 3 Bravo
  • PVS-7 GEN 3 Ghost (white phosphor with manual gain)
  • PVS-7 GEN 3P (high performance with Pinnacle IIT)

Besides the similarities and differences mentioned above (in the ATN section), there are a few more to cover here.

First, the IR illuminator of the Armasight PVS7 also includes a detachable flood lens. There are certain to be situations when this will be very useful to you, if you use the goggles often enough.

All Armasight models are the same size, weighing 1.5 pounds and measuring 6.4×6.0x3.0 inches.

You can power each of them with either 2 AA or 1 3V battery, which should give you over 40 hours of use. All have an automatic shut-off system to preserve battery life. That’s a feature that I would really appreciate! I know I do on my camera that has a similar shut-off mechanism.

As noted briefly above, all Armasight models are rated as waterproof. I could find no water depth rating, so it may not be very deep. The waterproofing probably guards more against rain than pools.

The four Gen 2 models have multi-alkali photocathode tubes, while the four Gen 3 models have gallium arsenide (GaAs) tubes. I honestly don’t know the difference between the two, but I would hope and assume the latter are better quality than the former.

Again, the resolution is a major differentiator from one model to the next. Here is a summary of what you get in each of the 8 Armasight models. Note that, in general, a Gen3 pair of goggles gives you a few more lines per millimeters than a Gen2 model.

Model Resolution (lp/mm)
PVS-7 GEN 2+ HD 55-72
PVS-7 GEN 2+ ID 47-54
PVS-7 GEN 2+ QS 55-72
PVS-7 GEN 2+ SD 45-51
PVS-7 GEN 3+ Alpha 64-72
PVS-7 GEN 3 Bravo 57-64
PVS-7 GEN 3 Ghost 47-57
PVS-7 GEN 3P  64-72

Even though some of the Gen 2 models have similar resolution compared to the Gen 3 models, remember that Gen 3 generally has significantly better quality than Gen 2. And that said, all eight of these models are still military grade (MIL-STD-810), making any of them the best night vision goggles you’ll find. In fact, these may be more than some people will ever need.

Where Can I Buy Military Grade Night Vision Goggles?

You could go directly to the manufacturers’ sites to make a purchase, but you might actually find it easier to go through Amazon. Both ATN and Armasight sell their products there too. If you have Amazon Prime or some extra Amazon bucks to spend, the choice is obvious.

If you have Amazon Prime or some extra Amazon bucks to spend, the choice is obvious.

All products described in this article should come with free shipping.

Get your Gen 3 Night Vision Goggles at Amazon today.

Digital Night Vision: Worth Spending Your Money On?

Sightmark Photon XT
Sightmark Photon XT

Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Night vision optics – goggles, binoculars, monoculars, scopes, and more – have been available for quite some time. You’re probably already familiar with one or more of those night vision gadgets, but you might still be wondering about the new kid on the block – digital night vision. Continue reading “Digital Night Vision: Worth Spending Your Money On?”

Safari Binoculars: Are They Different from Any Others?

Bushnell 8x42 Legend M Series
Bushnell 8×42 Legend M Series

It’s confession time. I must admit that I’ve never been on a safari, and I probably never will be. I’m just not the adventurous type like you. However, I can still give you some quality recommendations for safari binoculars, because I know what they can do, and I know what you’re likely to encounter on your trip. Continue reading “Safari Binoculars: Are They Different from Any Others?”

Bushnell Legend Binoculars: Are They Worthy of the Name?

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Think of some of the people or characters that most people would consider legends. All of them define greatness in some way, don’t they? Otherwise, they wouldn’t be called legends. Do Bushnell Legend binoculars deserve to be called by that name too?

Continue reading “Bushnell Legend Binoculars: Are They Worthy of the Name?”

7×35 Binoculars: Are They Headed Toward Extinction?

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Did you have a pair of 7×35 binoculars when you were young? Maybe they belonged to your parents or even you grandparents. Years ago, 7×35 was pretty much the only model type you could easily get.

We used to own a heavy pair of 7x35s that my dad probably picked up somewhere for cheap. I can still remember playing with them in the backyard, gazing across the fields of my grandfather’s farm. Continue reading “7×35 Binoculars: Are They Headed Toward Extinction?”

The Quest: Find the Best Night Vision Hunting Scope

You may be familiar with a scene from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail in which the troupe is asked several questions before they are allowed to cross a bridge. One of the questions is this: What is your quest? None of them answer, “To find the best night vision hunting scope,” but since that’s our “holy grail” here, it’s the question we’ll ask and try to answer.

It’s not an easy question to answer right off the bat because there is a lot of information to understand and to sort out before we can come to a possible solution in answer to the question. We’ll take the time to do so though, so that in the end we should have a reasonable selection of night vision hunting scopes that could claim the honor of “best”, even if we can’t narrow the field down to just one. Continue reading “The Quest: Find the Best Night Vision Hunting Scope”

Hunting? Birding? 4 Steiner Predator Binoculars to Try

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When you go hunting or bird watching, wouldn’t it be great if you could take something along that made spotting the animals easier? I don’t just mean larger but actually easier to see. Steiner Predator binoculars are just what we’ve been looking for.

Steiner makes several Predators as part of their Hunters line. Each of them has technology that makes using them out in the wild, where many mammals and birds are browns, blacks, and grays, exactly the optic device you want. Continue reading “Hunting? Birding? 4 Steiner Predator Binoculars to Try”

Pentax Binoculars: The Very Best of Pentax

When I think of the brand name Pentax, I usually think of cameras first. But I realize that, if they make good cameras and camera lenses, they probably make other good products that use lenses too – like Pentax binoculars.

Pentax ZD 8x43 WP binoculars
Pentax ZD 8×43 WP binoculars

Pentax makes nearly a dozen different lines of binoculars. Some of them are very inexpensive, but I’m going to examine the higher quality lines here.

Let’s look then at the very best of Pentax. We’ll especially note those with the widest field of view (FOV), the lightest weight, and which pairs you should consider for hunting, bird watching, and astronomy. Continue reading “Pentax Binoculars: The Very Best of Pentax”

Steiner Binoculars: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

You may already know that Steiner is a prominent name in binoculars. This German binoculars maker has been in the optics business since 1947. Steiner binoculars come in a wide range of sizes, weights, magnifications, and price points.

steiner-commander-7x50c-binocular-sm Continue reading “Steiner Binoculars: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide”