Lessons I Learned In the Dark

I had the opportunity to go out to my first “night shoot with night vision” on Sunday night, and as you may expect, it was quite the learning experience. I’ve done a fair amount of white light shooting, but this was the first time I took my RNVG with Omni VIII tubes out for a spin. Here’s some essential lessons I learned.

Everything is harder in the dark. Moving. Shooting. Gun handling. Everything’s tougher. I had a jam because I was dumb and didn’t remove my chamber flag, and then double-fed – twice – because I couldn’t see in the chamber. I accidentally set my TLR VIR II to white light mode, and wondered where my laser was. I fell right on my ass after I got disoriented picking up a mag. I’d say it was embarrassing, and it was, but to be honest, I sort of expected it as part of the learning process.

I really liked my helmet setup. I bought an Ops Core bump helmet, and then put 4D pads, a knockoff Mohawk, and knockoff Ops Core Amp arms with Impact Sports (gel pads) on it. I felt like I spent my money in the places where I needed to, and saved it in the right places. The only thing I really felt was missing was a helmet light for administrative use.

I missed the ability to go both active and passive on my rifle. I was overall very happy with the performance of my NV/mount/helmet chain. There were a couple things I might want to tweak, but I didn’t feel like I was coming in short. I also liked how the optic riser made it super easy to find the reticle on my UH1 Gen2, which worked well enough. My super-cheap RFX-25 optic also performed surprisingly well with the VIR II.

That said, I learned very quickly, though, why people buy those expensive illuminators and lasers for their rifles, and why everyone recommends Eotechs. My Vortex UH1 Gen2 worked, but I could see how it was letting in slightly less light than a friend’s Eotech, and how that made it harder to use on a moon-less night. Perhaps more to the point, I definitely would have liked to have the option of using an illuminator on some of the targets to let my UH1 power through on some of the further targets, or just use my laser and avoid the problem.

I went into the shoot knowing I didn’t have an active option for my rifle. But afterwards, I definitely went and bought a rifle laser, and started planning out how I could get a good bang-for-buck option for an illuminator. Maybe down the line I’ll buy something like a DBAL D2 or MAWL, but I need to stick within a reasonable budget for now.

Managing fogging in the cold is a bigger deal than I realized. My NV fogged up, and I had no idea why or what was going on. My vision got blurry and it made it really hard to shoot because my left eye was so fuzzy. The guy who sold me the RNVG included a well-known defogging rub with it, and now I know why.

Shooting in the dark is a ton of fun. Even though my first outing was a bit of a debacle, I learned so much about what I didn’t know, and by the end, I was getting the hang of things. There is something magical about seeing in the dark, and shooting in it is just so much fun.

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