Umarex Boys Club
Mike Taylor’s shooting in the dark, with his DIY night-vision set-up
Ilove target shooting, either punching paper or spinning metal, and I’m lucky enough to have a 35-yard garden at the back of the house and a tall backstop where I’ve made a covered area to put my swinging targets. During the summer, I can come home from work and have a plink –providing the neighbours are not enjoying the sun, as well. What about the winter time, though? By the time I’m home from work at 5 o’clock, it’s already dark and too late to drive to the club, which would be closed anyway by the time I got there. The only time left is at the weekend, but short days and housework eat away at the chances to shoot.
So how about shooting in the dark? I read an article in a shooting magazine about affordable DIY night vision, and although I don’t hunt, I was totally enthralled with the idea of NV and thought, ‘I could do that’. The chap who wrote the article, Nathan Reade, said that anyone who dropped him an email would receive the instructions on how to build the scope add-on, free of charge, and I duly received the instructions and list of components needed. I already had a 12v power source and some connectors/ switches, so my total outlay was about £45 for the rest.
Putting it all together wasn’t too difficult because I am technically minded and able to solder without burning myself too many times. I won’t go into the actual build, but it is important to get the CCTV camera central in the tube that attaches to the scope, and in focus. This is what took me the longest because it was trial and error, sliding the camera on and off to adjust it. Online forums like nightvisionforumuk.com have a wealth of knowledge, and plans for making them.
Once it’s on and you have a clear image in the viewer – a car reversing monitor – you might have to adjust the eyepiece to get the cross hairs in focus – I have to unscrew the quick adjuster completely. Some people place the monitor on the top of the scope and shoot from a head-up position, but I have placed mine at the side of the scope and with a padded pouch on the butt, so I can get almost the same shooting position as I use with just the scope.
Because the image on the screen is taken through your own scope, you don’t have to adjust your zero. You just need a little focus, so an AO is essential to get the most out of your set-up. The camera you use is a small, digital CCTV-type and needs illumination to work in the dark. I purchased a T38 infrared torch from eBay, and it’s just the job for my needs, illuminating the targets quite nicely at 35 yards.
Although I have wonderful neighbours, I limit my shooting to the early evenings, and shoot
from my conservatory to reduce the noise. During the winter, most people have their windows closed and the curtains drawn, so the sounds of my pellets hitting the targets are mostly unheard, and without a bright light shining down the garden there’s nothing to make them concerned.
Shooting in the dark has its own problems; I use an Air Arms S400 and placing a pellet on the feed groove is second nature, but try it in the dark and its ‘fumble fingers’ time, and quite easy to get the pellet in backwards. I end up using a finger on each side to guide the pellet, ensuring that it goes in the right way.
The glare from the screen can be annoying after a while, but a piece of coloured film placed over it can sort it out – I use green. Also, be sure of the path to the target because your vision is concentrated on the monitor and so peripheral view is negligible. I also secure the door to the conservatory because I can’t see if it closes.
I have a six-piece swinging target that flips to horizontal when hit, and falls down when the reset is hit. It`s quite weird hitting the targets and looking up from the scope/viewer into complete darkness. I tried sticking tabs of reflecting tape to the swingers, but the glare was so great that it drowned out the whole disc.
I also have a stake with a couple of magnetic holders screwed on to it, for the Firebird exploding targets – quite impressive when you hit one in the dark. Only use the flash ones, though, if you want to stay friendly with the neighbours.
I have a homemade shooting table (cut-down from IKEA) and shoot off a beanbag. The night-vision device does add some weight, especially if you put the battery pack on the stock, but I’ve since purchased a 12v rechargeable battery and this is both smaller and lighter than the 8AA battery pack I started with, and fits well in the
“I can now shoot all year round at home. I just need to wear more clothes”
This helps a lot because I have entered the UBC rifle competition. You can either use plinkers or precision rifles, open sights or optics, 6 yard or 10 metre. I decided to enter the 10-metre optics competition, but instead of just using the optics, I added the NV and shot in the dark.
Why? Well, it’s something different, a greater challenge. There are 11 small bullseyes on the target; the middle one for zeroing, and then one shot at the others. I use a tripod to rest the rifle on because it’s far too heavy to hold on target freestanding (allowed by our rules), and even so, it’s not that easy to take a steady aim on the small targets, or that might just be me.
I like using modern technology. Couple this with my love for shooting, and I have a whole new avenue open to me. So, as a non-hunting back garden and indoor target shooter, I no longer have to wait for summer to come around again. I can now shoot all year round at home. I just need to wear more clothes and furry boots when shooting outdoors; slippers will do indoors, you’ve got to shoot in comfort, you know!
Mike kindly brought his set-up to our meet back in June, where he let anyone have a go. I took up his offer and sat down with it, and Mike had to readjust the camera due to me being a leftie.
It felt great looking through the camera screen, finding the target, and shooting at it, and then me being me, I thought of ideas for what else could be done with it and form a sort of competition. People around me were saying, ‘Oh dear! What’s he thinking? He’s got that look on his face again’. I told Mike my idea, which we are now currently working on ready for our next meet. I’m not going to disclose it, though. Well, not yet anyway. I
S400 NV set-up.
Day view of my NV screen.
To illuminate the target I used a T38 infrared torch.
I made sure that my door was open and secured! Green film reduces the glare off the screen.
Paddy and Mike discussing future ideas.
Targets in clear view in total darkness.
The UBC rifle target through NV.
NV pumpkin after its nose was shot off.