More Lessons I Learned In the Dark

After getting some solid life lessons at my first night vision shoot, I bought some gear and went back to another event. Would you believe I found out some more?

Active is awesome. You will recall that I ran all passive aiming during my first NV shoot through a combination of user error and lack of equipment. This time, I had a Holosun LS221G and (so-so) IR illuminator on my rifle (controlled by a TAPS Sync V4), and made sure my TLR VIR II was set in IR mode. This last practice was also a moonless, dark night with just enough backlighting to make things hard to see at distance, so it was a good test case for active. Every single person went active with their rifle this time around, the conditions were simply that bad.

Suffice it to say, my rifle work improved tremendously using that laser and illuminator. I still need to refine the zero on the illuminator (and my rifle optic, if we’re being honest), but my ability to see and hit the target was infinitely enhanced.

Oddly enough, I didn’t really feel like active added a lot to my pistol work. The closer-in targets were easy enough to see, and I don’t have trouble shooting an optics pistol under night vision. It helped a little bit when I went to engage the rifle targets with my pistol, but the laser made it super hard to see the dot of my optic – an unfortunate limitation of the TLR-VIR II is that you can’t just use the IR illuminator.

This experience really makes me question some of the advice I see on forums about never using active illumination. I get that, tactically, there are problems with it sometimes, but I simply don’t understand how you’re going to hit what you can’t see. Notably, my RNVGs are using military contract Omni VIII tubes, so it’s not like I’m using something that’s any worse than what a grunt in the field would use.

Helmet admin lights are a necessity. Dealing with my gear was so much simpler this time around because I had mounted a Princeton Tec MPLS Charge Pro to my helmet. Click on the red light, rummage through my stuff, click it off. Easy.

Preparation is key. I applied anti-fog liberally to my night vision device and eye protection before I left the house, and it made a tremendous difference in my ability to see what I needed to see all night long. I also spent more time really getting to know my diopter and focus settings, which I suspect also added a substantial improvement to my ability to move and shoot effectively.

Clearing malfunctions blind is a thing. I had one malfunction with my pistol (I think a stovepipe), and as it turns out, I could see just about enough to know I had a malfunction, but not enough to see exactly what was going on. I have never been a big fan of immediate action drills, but this experience gave me a lot of insight into why they’re handy. Tap rack bang, and I was back to shooting.

You really don’t need to LARP. I brought my battle belt because it’s set up reasonably well for what I need to do at night shoots, but I left the plate carrier at home. Not being sore the next morning made it feel like a worthwhile trade-off. This isn’t to say I might not being it in the future, but practice is practice, no matter how you’re dressed.

Battery packs are unnecessary, at least for me. I am sure battery packs make sense for a special operator who’s going into the jungle for a week at a time; I’m a desk jockey from the burbs who LARPs (badly) once every week or two. I can afford to take a few minutes and change out a CR123 when the sad light blinks. If I ever shoot a proper night match, I’ll preemptively put in a new one beforehand.

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