For NVGs I’ve got green Sentinels, WP dual 14’s, WP PVS-31s, green PVS-15’s, and an Armasight CO-X clip on.
In thermals, I have a PAS29 COTI, a FLIR Breach, and a SIG Echo.
For lasers I have a bunch of ATPIAL-C’s, X400 BIRCs, a DBAL i2 and PL, as well as a Luna.
I like them all for different reasons and applications. Granted, I didn’t buy all of this crap at once and if I could go back and do it again, I’d probably have less, rather than more.
Based on the stuff I have, here are my experience and some of my own thoughts, to the degree it helps to inform a potential purchase:
For the money, a PVS14 and Surefire X400 BIRC is probably the best entry level set up. My only complaint is once you use binos you’ll never want to go back. If you scale up to dual 14s after wearing ANVIS-style binos, you’re likely to find them heavy and lack the collimated features in an OEM goggle. With that, I’d just save up for a set of binos. As for the laser, Shrek is right; the flood and laser on the BIRC is hard to beat at night. You won’t find anything better for the money. My only complaint is you can’t zero the laser in the daylight, like a some of the more modern co-witnessed day/ night lasers. It also doesn’t have click adjustments. You will also have to mount the laser at the 12 or 6 o’ clock to be on a ballistic plane with your muzzle and the best constant offset. I have mine mounted at the 12 but I also have to use a riser mount to get my red dot to clear the node of the laser. I’m really looking forward to Surefire releasing the XVL2-C, which should address some of this.
For the best combo of civilian attainable performance and value, I’d run a set of Sentinels or ANVIS, on a ball detent, with a battery box, and an ATPIAL-C. My only compliant about this is the ATPIAL-C flood and laser are comparatively weak at distance. Some of this can be augmented by a vampire head on a surefire light.
In terms of comfort, performance, and ergonomics,I like my PVS31s the best. The weight and the fact they articulate around the head and face are hard to beat. The big issue is a lack of fine tune focusing and adjustment. Depending on the eyes (I have a stigmatism), I lose definition at range. It’s also hard to find a ball detent for them. I just learned Wilcox makes an adapter but I haven’t used it. The other big draw back is you can’t send them off to get worked on. L3 won’t service them for civilians. Mine were an over purchase by a police dept.
The PVS15s are great. The tubes are good and they allow for fine tune adjustment, but they also sit up very high when folded up. You’ll likely stow them forward and out, unless you want to bang them around. This is especially true in vehicles. Finally, they run on the also heavier side.
As for thermals, I’ve got some lower end stuff. It all works well for me. The COTI is a great, but adds weight. It also drops off with high or low temps. My FLIR Breach is a cool piece of kit. You can helmet mount it, with a pvs14 on the other eye, but they can only be used one at a time. You can’t create artificial fusion by having both down at the same time.
For weapon mounted options, there’s always the trusty PVS14 with a weapon mount, although this has some limitations with calibers and usage based on recoil ratings. My SIG Echo is a cheap weapon mounted thermal. It provides clear enough definition, accurately holds a zero, and is more than capable for hunting 300 yards in. My major complaint is that it’s a battery hog and has latency/ refresh issues. When coupled with my magnifier from a Leopold DVO it’s actually a bad ass day/ night magnified set up. My favorite set up is the CO-X with the Luna. I popped my filter off and I can laso in the International Space Station with it, let alone illuminate a target for my NV clip-on. I can rock this on any rifle/ scope combo I have with little to no modification to my zero.
Ultimately, if I traded in a bunch of stuff I have, that UTM that Shrek has is probably the best all around set up I’ve played with. Granted, it’s expensive, but it does almost everything from fusion with NV, to clipping to a helmet, or attaching to a weapon optic. The optic has built-in magnification. Finally, the unit is small and light, which helps if you’re going to have it hanging off your face and head for any period of time.
In a perfect world, I’d get a set of PVS35 fusion goggles. I’m really looking forward to a set that is attainable through conventional sales channels.
Hope that helps someone out there, as you weigh your decisions or research an alternative viewpoint!