“The bullets don’t care how dark it is.”
Airsoft isn’t just a game for the day time, if you have the right equipment.
Believe us when we say the game can be amazing for all you night owls too.
It’s early night. You’re crouched in a field, dressed in clothes to blend you into the surrounding shadows.
Out there somewhere, you know your opponents are waiting for you to make a wrong move, even though you can’t hear them breathing from where you are.
If one of them moves, you’ll see them. You have your airsoft night vision goggles.
THIS is going to be fun.
Keep reading as we delve deeper into airsoft….in the dark.
What are NVG’s/Nods?
Technically, the proper term for airsoft night vision in games is NODs.
Depending on who you ask, NODs stands for (N)ightvision (O)ptical (or Observation) (D)evice, though these devices are also sometimes called NVGs, or Night Vision Goggles.
This equipment allows you to see in the dark. However, you will still need an illuminated sight.
There are many types of sights out there, and you can pick the type you prefer, whether that is a green laser, a red laser or even an IR sight.
No matter which you choose, the effectiveness of your sight will be increased by use at night, since there is less external light to interfere with it.
When choosing a sight, it’s necessary to be cautious. Remember that unless you use an IR (infra-red) sight, your targets will also be able to see your laser.
If you go with an Infra-red sight only you and other people wearing NODs will be able to see it.
How Do They Work?
NODs function like a telescope, with a light amplifier, called an image intensifier, built in. Light doesn’t actually pass through the device, but it’s a good way to start thinking about how they work, and all NODs do have a few shared components.
All NODs have an objective lens. This lens gathers light and works like the outer lens of a telescope or camera. The larger the objective lens, the more light it can collect and intensify.
The photocathode tube translates the light the objective lens gathers into electrons.
The Charging System
The method of charge differs from device to device. However, the purpose of it remains the same. The charging system is used to excite the electrons.
The Phosphor Screen
This part of your NODs shows an echo of the intensified image you’re seeing whenever it encounters charged electrons.
The image on the screen glows green because that is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that the human eye can most easily see.
As we said earlier, light does not pass through your NODs. It stops when it’s turned into electrons.
What you’re seeing is an image of excited electrons on the Phosphor screen as they are translated back into light and released through the rear lens.
The rear lens determines the eye relief of the NOD. The eye relief is the optimal distance between your NOD and your eye.
Airsoft night vision devices do not work in total darkness, as we have also said. Instead, they utilize such low light that the human eye can’t see it without image intensification.
During this process, light waves that we generally can’t see are available to the device, specifically parts of the infra-red (IR) spectrum.
Since IR isn’t visible to humans, IR lights are used to enhance the user’s ability to see and to aim and coordinate shots without giving their positions away.
Magnification is a way to better the image quality within a generation of NODs. However, it will never be as good as stepping up to the next generation.
Furthermore, you can’t head mount a device with a magnifying lens because doing so would severely alter your depth perception.
Therefore, they’re good as scopes and good for spotting targets but not so great for movement.
There are several different generations of NODs. Just like telescopes and cameras, the difference in generation is judged by the US government and are as follows.
- G0 is the original generation of NODs. They’re better than nothing, but they are not modern. They require full IR illumination to function.
- G1/G1+: Most Gen 1 devices aren’t military spec. Further, they sport less than optimal optics, low-cost and low-spec image intensifiers and low-resolution phospor screens that provide a low-quality, low-resolution picture. For airsoft purposes, these can be good for spotting if you have moonlight, 1/4 light or an IR flood. They are not good for movement.
- G2/2+: These NODs are a bit better than the G1 devices and are a good starting point for beginners. They contain the multi-channel plate, which compresses or balances the light while increasing gain. These units tend to be really functional and they magnify light by 20,000 times. They work better in low light and can handle more ambient light without overflashing.
- G3 devices feature a number of changes. They introduce an upgraded MCP, change the film coating of the photocathode, and use chemical compositions in the tube differently. They also introduce a true signal gating system that powers down the device whenever it is exposed to too much light. This doesn’t turn off your unit. It simply dims the brightest lights so you can see well in mixed-light circumstances.
Costs of NVG’s
You don’t necessarily need NODs to play airsoft at night.
However, if you do want to use them, it’s important to accept up front that the professional NODs are rather expensive, and that expense is more than just the cost of the unit.
What Other Equipment Do You Need?
There are several extra pieces of equipment you will need if you intend on doing night vision airsoft games properly. All of them add to the cost of your setup.
The first piece of equipment you will need to invest in is a bump helmet. A bump helmet is a lighter-weight version of a standard military ballistic helmet.
It will allow you to equip your NODs properly while protecting your head from blunt force trauma including BBs.
As a civilian, it is a good choice since, as a civilian you will not be in any area with real gunfire and therefore won’t need the added protection of a ballistic helmet.
When picking a bump helmet, it is important to make sure that it fits correctly for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, if it is too big, you run the risk of it falling off. Secondly, having a helmet that doesn’t properly fit can lead to head trauma if you happen to fall and hurt yourself.
Most bump helmets have a dedicated rail system allowing you to mount not only your NOds but also an IR illumination solution.
Base Plate and Arms
To mount your NODs to your helmet, you will need a base plate and the necessary arms. Check the manual for your NODs to see what mounting solutions it will work with, before you buy it. That way, you can buy all your hardware at one time.
If you are going to mount a NODs on your helmet, you need either a replacement objective lens or a lexan lens to cover your objective lens. That way, you are protecting the lens of your NODs from being shattered by airsoft pellets.
The temptation here might be to use a De Mist shield in front of your lens as a means of protection. After all, it will prevent condensation from forming on the optics of your NODs. Don’t do this. It is a bad idea. A De Mist shield will shatter just like your objective lens will.
Weapon Aiming Solution
The third piece of equipment you will need is a weapon aiming solution or target designator.IR lasers, functioning PEQ replicas, or DBAL solutions are all great choices but they easily cost a couple hundred dollars each.
You may think that you can use a regular dot sight with an NVG setting, but you would be wrong.
The NVG setting on these types of sights are made for weapon-mounted NODs, and they will not work for the head-mounted solutions.
Trying to orient your weapon clumsily by holding it outstretched to find that spot six inches from your eye while staring through a tube with your head cocked at a weird angle is not fun.
Not only that, it makes your shots more inaccurate. If you’re sitting like that to save money, just don’t. It won’t be worth it in the long run.
However, there are weapons systems, such as the PVS14 that can be mounted either in front of or behind a Milspec dot sight with an NVG setting.
The device will have a particular setting, depicted in the user manual that won’t wash out your NODs.
However, the dot splash can wash out enough to screw up your accuracy, so it’s usually mounted ahead of the sight.
Making Your Own Airsoft Scope
NODs are very expensive. However, there are ways to make your own night-vision scopes, without too much fuss.
Though these won’t help you with movement and are weapon mounted, they are still much better than nothing. Here’s what you’ll need to make your own scope.
- Two 40-44MM scope rings.
- 1 night-vision toy.
- 4 #8-32 machine screws.
- 8 #8-32 nuts.
- 4 8-32 lock washers.
- Picatinny rial.
- Philips screwdriver.
- Portable drill.
- Assorted drill bits.
- Drill press.
- Bench Vice.
- .64 aluminum sheet metal.
- Assorted jigsaw blades.
- Center Punch.
- Safety goggles.
Step 1. Disassemble the night vision toy. Put the top half and the seven screws from the base into a sandwich bag and seal it.
Step 2. Now that you are left with just a base plate, find a screw that’s smaller than the four indents on the bottom of the scope’s base plate. Drill on the indents with the drill press.
Step 3. Cut the aluminum to a diameter of 2 1/2 inches by 3 inches, just big enough to fit the base of the scope. Mark where your indent holes are on the scope base and punch holes in the aluminum so they will line up with the ones in the scope base.
Step 4. Line up the holes again, making sure they’re even. Then slide in the bolts. Screw on the nuts and then screw that through the top half of your scope.
Step 5. Disassemble the scope rings. Put them at their desired spots on the Picatinny rail, then trace those points on the bottom plate.
Drill the holes for them and mount them. And there you have it, a scope of your own that will allow you to fire your airsoft gun at night.
- Make sure that you always observe proper safety protocols when building your scope. Be sure to wear both gloves and goggles.
- If you are afraid of ruining your aluminum plate, then you should overbuy just a bit. After all, if you’re a crafty person, you can always find another use for it.
Nighttime airsoft games can be the highlight of teamwork. You will find yourself trusting your opponents far more than you might otherwise have. Plus, it’s just plain fun.
However, in order to do a proper nighttime game, you need proper NODs, which can be quite expensive.
All NODs have the four main parts: the objective lens, the intensification tube, the photocathode array and the Phosphor Screen.
All of these components work together to allow us to see in the dark, though what is happening is really that the spectrum of light the objective lens picks up isn’t one we can see with the naked eye.
Though NODs are expensive, they are not your only option. It is completely possible to make your own airsoft night vision scope, which though not good for movement will allow you to spot your targets.
No matter which method you choose, if you get a NOD, you will be preparing yourself for a world of amazing gaming, all while most people sleep.