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IR illuminators for Night Vision

Discussion in 'Other' started by John A., Mar 19, 2015.

  1. John A.

    John A. Unconstitutional laws are not laws. Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator

    I am writing this topic to discuss the various types of Infra-red Night Vision Illuminators that are available. I have done a lot of research on the subject the last few weeks and I found one that is called the Night Master that I would love to have, but they are not available in the U.S. at this time. If they ever are imported, I would very much like to try one at that time, but for now, they are only in the UK.

    But until then, I currently only have 2 different IR lights, but a friend of mine says that he has 2 others that he will give to me the next time he comes to visit. He was wanting to see which performs better on the ATN X sight.

    While the optic came with it's own Infrared Illuminator (IR450-B4) which works OK, I don't think it has hardly the range as it should. Even with the beam focused on spot.

    I also have an IR lens cover that goes on my Surefire G2 flash light that also works really well, but the down side to it is the fact that it is visible to the naked eye.

    But the two IR lights that he is giving me is an Ultrafire 3W 850nm light and an Ultrafire 3W 940nm.

    All of which coincidentally run off of CR123 batteries.

    From everything I have been able to read about the subject, the 940nm is the least visible of the bunch being the farthest away from the visible light spectrum to people and animals, but the 850's are said to have a longer range of illumination for the scopes, so I will just have to test all of the above to see which (if any) works the best for the scope itself, and to find out which is the most stealthy, so I am looking forward to testing this and doing some night shooting in the next few weeks. :D

    Surefire FM33 G2 lens cover
    ATN IR450-B4 adjustable spot/flood

    850nm Ultrafire

    940nm Ultrafire MX
    MikeD and Rossignol like this.
  2. Rossignol

    Rossignol The Original Sheriff Staff Member Global Moderator Moderator Sponsor

    Very interesting topic!
    MikeD likes this.
  3. MikeD

    MikeD I'm Your Huckleberry Staff Member Global Moderator "Philanthropist"

    Given my own recent acquisition I am taking notes on this.
  4. John A.

    John A. Unconstitutional laws are not laws. Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator

    I'm hoping within the next few weeks that the weather will cooperate enough to do some night testing.

    The scope itself has 3 different light sensitivity modes (low, med, hi) and coupled with different bandwidth lights, could take a while to find a "favorite" combination/setting, but I think it'll be worth it when I do. My goal is to find a light that provides enough light for clarity at short and long range, and that is as stealthy as possible.

    Since I hadn't planned on ever buying any more CR123 devices because of my general dislike of the battery type itself, there just aren't any ir lights available in AA. So, I bought a smart charger and 4 rechargables CR123's from ebay.
  5. John A.

    John A. Unconstitutional laws are not laws. Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator

    OK, I now have 4 different IR lights in different flavors and wavelengths that should be here today. I have not tested any of them except the ATN that came with the unit yet, but the things I am looking for in them is:

    1. Range/Distance throw
    2. Over-powering (washing out) at closer distances
    3. How visible is it with the naked eye
    4. How visible it is to animals.
    5. If there is a particular wavelength that just seems to work better/worse with my device.

    A quick run-down of some of the things I have learned in the last few weeks.

    If you want to read this entire article I am speaking of, you can read it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_vision#Active_illumination
    but I am concentrating on the IR light section of it.

    Here is a chart that describes what portions of light that humans can normally see.

    "Spectrum of light" by Danniel Curze - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spectrum_of_light.png#/media/File:Spectrum_of_light.png

    Just to say it, humans typically can pick up 400-700 nm range and IR lights are typically be in the 700–1,000 nm range.

    Another thing to keep into consideration for civilian night vision (a big thing actually), military IR gear is into the 5 watt power range. Anything in the 5+ watt rating is considered as Class 3. And like anything else Class 3 (think machineguns), only the Gov't can own them (except for medical exemptions-- med grade lasers). Perhaps surprisingly, the FDA is in charge of regulating the sale of military lasers. I just wanted to throw that in there.

    Civilian legal is anything below the 5 watt threshold, but most IR lights/lasers are in the 3 watt neighborhood so one of the main reasons that military gear has a longer range and more clarity than civilian gear is the power rating at which the military grade gear is nearly twice as strong as what us mere civilians own.

    OK. Enough for now, I have an appointment in a few minutes. If there is anything anyone would like to add or ask, I'm open for suggestions.
    Rossignol likes this.
  6. John A.

    John A. Unconstitutional laws are not laws. Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator

    Unfortunately, I just checked the lights in my basement and 2 of them were DOA.

    The only one of the 3 incoming that worked was the 850 nm Ultrafire light.

    I'll have to figure out what to do with the other 2.
  7. MikeD

    MikeD I'm Your Huckleberry Staff Member Global Moderator "Philanthropist"

    Do you think it's just a battery issue or something in the LED's?
  8. John A.

    John A. Unconstitutional laws are not laws. Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator

    LED unfortunately.

    I checked the batteries with a multi-meter and they're good.

    Matter of fact the two smaller ultrafires (850 and 940) I checked with the same set of batteries. The 850 works, the 940 doesn't.

    The T20 has a different battery type (18650 rechargable) and it is full charge. 3.7 vdc. No illumination.

    Bummer because I was most looking forward to trying the T20 because it has the adjustable beam spot/flood.
  9. John A.

    John A. Unconstitutional laws are not laws. Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator

    I guess in some respects, it's better that the T20 light didn't work out.

    I was able to find a Bushnell Equinox IR light that runs on AA's for $65 (almost 50% off msrp). And with it running on AA's makes it easier for me because the scope also runs on AA's, so that's better than having to stock and carry two different kinds of batteries with me when I'm hunting.


    The Bushnell has 3 settings (low, mid, hi) and they said the low setting has an approximate 45 hour battery life, which is fantastic considering the T20 battery life is in the single digits and uses the more expensive cr123 batteries.

    Most reviews I read said that the Bushnell added about 75-100 yards more effective range, which is more than adequate for what I'll be using it for.

    I have a replacement 940 nm bulb for the ultrafire light incoming, so that's better than having to buy a whole light.

    While I still plan to do a side by side comparison, it's just going to be delayed for a while longer.
    Rossignol and LAZY EYED SNIPER like this.

    LAZY EYED SNIPER Overwatch Staff Member Global Moderator Supporter "Philanthropist"

    Great find John! AA is a big win...
  11. John A.

    John A. Unconstitutional laws are not laws. Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator

    It is for me.

    I know that most weapon lights are CR123's, and I've been through my fair share of them over the years, but seems like battery life and cost and availability are pretty dismal.

    Many 123 weapon lights are only good for a few hours continuous use at best.

    I'm kinda set up with rechargeable AA's. And like I said, makes logistics a lot easier for me to keep charged batteries on hand.

    I guess there are a few different ways of looking at it. For some that have long open shots, they would need something with a lot of power and a long throw to really reach out there like the T20 and T60 can deliver.

    But for my terrain and shooting situation, if it's "too powerful" (bright), then it's going to do more harm than good if it's washing out on tree limbs and leaves and plants and bushes.

    I know that many think that bigger is better for everything, (like why I'd need a 950 lumen tac light that melts retina's and requires a lightsaber license to own for instance) but when you are sitting in the middle of an old growth forest and you can't take a 75 yard shot during the day, I can't realistically expect to take a longer shot than that at night can I?

    So, with 3 different power settings on the Bushnell, I should be able to find a setting that delivers enough light to illuminate out to 70 yards without washing out my scope.

    I hope. At least that's my logic in buying it.
  12. John A.

    John A. Unconstitutional laws are not laws. Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator

    I haven't had the time to check these to see how they do, but I have a few more lights now.

    ATN sent a replacement for the light that came with the scope since it was going through batteries like nobodies business. They even covered the shipping on the new one on their dime. I can honestly say that ATN is doing well on their end of customer service. Many companies would do well to follow their example.

    As for the 940nm MXpower bulb that was DOA, the seller shipped a replacement, but it is coming direct from China and has not arrived yet. So I will get to test it after all, but I don't know when it will get here.

    The Bushnell Equinox light also arrived the same day the ATN replacement got here.

    The packaging says the ATN is 850nm so I will be comparing it directly with the Ultrafire 850. The ATN has different intensity levels so it may automatically have an advantage where washout up close is concerned for the main reason being able to change the brightness levels.

    Aside from washout up close between the two, I guess the other thing I will look for between them will be if either has a longer range at max power. The MX may be better at longer range at least where speed is concerned. It is a simple tailcap push button and will be like any weapon light. On or off. I just don't know which will be the "stronger" between the two.

    Bushnell paperwork said the Equinox max range is about 110 yards which is probably going to be fine for my uses for 90%+ of the time. Coincidentally, they also said the battery life was 50 hours on low, 25 on medium and 10 hours on high. I do not know what the battery life is on the other ones. It wasn't covered in the books anywhere that I could find.

    The Bushnell paperwork did say it is 805nm wavelength so I'm curious if it will be noticeably different from either the 850nm lights but I'm hopeful because I do like that light the best so far. Not only because of the battery type, but the Bushnell has a large wheel on top of the housing where you can turn it on/off and between the 3 intensity settings that would be a definite advantage when feeling for it in the dark compared to the ATN which is a tiny pushbutton.

    The ATN you have to push both up/down buttons to turn it on/off and the farthest button is + intensity and the back button is the - intensity. Just working it in the dark would be a challenge, but I am reserving judgement.

    Here are the 3 different styles together.

    chicks 001.JPG
  13. John A.

    John A. Unconstitutional laws are not laws. Staff Member Administrator Global Moderator

    After using these for a while, I have found these IR lights do well up to 60 yards or so with reasonable detail but the clarity was beginning to take a hit at much farther than that.

    But sometimes, I like to scan well out of the reach of these IR lights when I hear something in the distance.

    So, I have done some research for long throw IR lights, though there are not very many in this class in the US, but after some studying on the subject, I settled on the T68 Evolva.

    Perhaps not surprisingly, ebay and amazon were one of the few places where you can even find these in the U.S., and it took weeks to import one shipping from China or the UK.

    On to the light.

    They run off of two rechargeable 18650 batteries, have the option of getting a charger with it (which I did) and even has the option of a rat tail switch if you are inclined to use one.

    The light can be used from flood to spot, and while it is considerably larger than any other light I have ever mounted on a gun, isn't too cumbersome. This is another one of those times, where I am advocating function over form. If you are going to be using night vision to it's full potential, it is imperative that you have the gear to get the most from that equipment.

    To mount to a rifle, you will need a 30mm scope mount. I had some spare mounts from red dot scopes that I hadn't used, so I am using one from one of my bushnell scopes.

    evolva 003.JPG

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