NIGHT MOVES

THREE DAYS OF DANC­ING IN THE DARK AT TNVC’S NIGHT FIGHTER COURSE

Recoil - - Contents - BY TOM MAR­SHALL PHO­TOS BY DAVE MER­RILL

Three Days of Danc­ing in the Dark at TNVC’s Night Fighter Course

Not ter­ri­bly long ago, night vi­sion was the stuff of ac­tion movies. While it did, in fact, ex­ist some­where in the real world, no­body of even re­motely av­er­age means was ever go­ing to touch, see, or ex­pe­ri­ence night vi­sion short of a few hazy green cut­aways in a flick full of round­house kicks and amaz­ing one-lin­ers. For­tu­nately for the rest of us, ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy typ­i­cally come with the added ben­e­fit of mak­ing ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy more af­ford­able and more ac­ces­si­ble. Once cov­eted by guys with bushy beards who storm air­planes, green­eye gog­gles are now more avail­able at a more rea­son­able price to the com­mer­cial con­sumer.

No­tice how we said “rea­son­able price” and not “cheap.” While it’s pos­si­ble to find night vi­sion de­vices for $250, those pieces aren’t of a qual­ity we’d rec­om­mend for any­thing more than show­ing off to your friends in your back­yard.

Any NV de­vice that’ll be in­te­grated with the use of firearms needs to be of a qual­ity guar­an­teed to save your life if and when nec­es­sary.

En­ter TNVC — Tac­ti­cal Night Vi­sion Com­pany. (Hey, at least the name leaves no doubt as to their prod­uct of­fer­ings.)

TNVC pro­duces all man­ner of night vi­sion de­vices, pri­mar­ily un­der mil­i­tary con­tract or agency pur­chase or­der. But they’ve also made earnest strides in re­cent years to reach fur­ther into the con­sumer mar­ket­place. As part of this ef­fort, they’re not only sell­ing the equip­ment it­self, but also of­fer train­ing cour­ses for end users.

TNVC’s Night Fighter course comes in two fla­vors: Night Fighter Level 1 and Night Fighter Armed Pro­fes­sional. The for­mer is open to civil­ians, while the lat­ter is re­stricted to Mil/LE end users. We re­cently had the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend one of the Armed Pro­fes­sional cour­ses, of­fered at Al­liance Train­ing Cen­ter in Ohio. While the Armed Pro­fes­sional course is re­stricted at­ten­dance,

it cov­ers all the same ma­te­rial as the open-en­roll­ment Level 1, with the ad­di­tion of a Team CQB por­tion.

We’ve al­ways been a fan of seek­ing out the best sub­ject-mat­ter ex­perts in a given field we want to talk about. Who bet­ter to teach us about the use of night vi­sion than law en­force­ment and mil­i­tary vet­er­ans who’ve not only used NVGs in the real world, but now work for a com­pany that man­u­fac­tures and sells night vi­sion as well. While this au­thor, and most of the RE­COIL staff, used night vi­sion at one point or an­other in their pre­vi­ous lives, no­body’s too badass for the ba­sics, and the TNVC Night Fighter course brought back a cou­ple long-for­got­ten les­sons that we now pass on to any of you who may con­sider mak­ing night vi­sion a part of your hunts, per­sonal pro­tec­tion plan, or even just your next night at the range.

KNOW WHERE YOU ARE

Re­gard­less of whether you’re run­ning sin­gle- or dual-tube NVGs, your field of view through the tubes is only about 17 de­grees. What’s that mean for you as a shooter? It means you’ll quickly learn just how much you take pe­riph­eral vi­sion for granted. Our in­struc­tors con­tin­u­ally re­in­forced the im­por­tance of de­lib­er­ately scan­ning your en­vi­ron­ment. The old ax­iom of keep­ing your head on a swivel be­comes quite lit­eral un­der NVGs since, essen­tially, you must be look­ing di­rectly at some­thing to see it. In the shoot house por­tion of the class, our cadre made this point through the in­con­ve­nient place­ment of fur­ni­ture in and around en­try­ways. The au­thor, three months later, still has a scar on his shin from in­ad­ver­tently try­ing to punt a cof­fee ta­ble while but­ton-hook­ing through a door­way. Why? Be­cause he didn’t prop­erly scan his sur­round­ings on the move.

In ad­di­tion to the re­duced field of view, night vi­sion also severely lim­its depth per­cep­tion. The use of mul­ti­ple lenses in the phys­i­cal con­struc­tion of the tubes, as well as the mono­chrome green (or white) dis­play, dis­torts how your eyes per­ceive dis­tance. Bump­ing into door­frames and car doors is a pretty com­mon oc­cur­rence for first­time night vi­sion users, but the brain can be trained to com­pen­sate for this. One ex­er­cise sug­gested by TNVC staff is to play catch while wear­ing NVGs. Re­build­ing the hand-eye co­or­di­na­tion re­quired to catch an ob­ject mid-air will trans­late di­rectly to other, more im­por­tant tasks like reach­ing out to open or close doors, ex­e­cute a mag­a­zine change, or clear a mal­func­tion. There are few things more em­bar­rass­ing, and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous, than stab­bing a full mag­a­zine blindly into the air be­cause you can’t find your mag well.

An­other tech­nique to help nav­i­gate is to ma­nip­u­late your en­vi­ron­ment from large to small. It was ex­plained to us this way: When you ap­proach a door to

make en­try, first reach out and touch the door. Then, use the door to find the door­frame. Then, use the door­frame to find the knob. While it may not be nec­es­sary to per­form this process by the num­bers ev­ery sin­gle time, it’s an ex­cel­lent in­dex method that can help when you’re ei­ther still read­just­ing that spa­tial aware­ness or en­ter­ing an un­fa­mil­iar en­vi­ron­ment.

KNOW WHERE YOUR GEAR IS

The process of in­te­grat­ing night vi­sion into your shoot­ing, re­gard­less of the con­text, needs to start long be­fore you drop those tubes down over your eyes. In fact, it might be­gin be­fore you even pur­chase your night vi­sion at all. Since your field of view will be greatly re­stricted, you’ll not be able to see what you’re shoot­ing at and also see your gun or any gear you may be wear­ing. Whether it’s a plate car­rier or a fanny pack, any place you may be stor­ing ex­tra ammo or equip­ment will have to be ac­ces­si­ble in­stinc­tu­ally. The TNVC in­struc­tors put on a rather in-depth block on in­struc­tion on how to con­fig­ure both your weapons and your per­sonal kit for night vi­sion op­er­a­tions. While the ex­am­ples used in class were geared to­ward tac­ti­cal op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing things like chem lights to mark cleared rooms and flex cuffs for se­cur­ing de­tainees, the prin­ci­ples are uni­ver­sally ap­pli­ca­ble.

The key for gear on your per­son is con­sis­tency and ease of ac­cess. Do you al­ways put your car keys in your left front pocket? Do you al­ways put your wal­let in your back right pocket? Those items you can likely re­trieve up­side down in the dark. But what about your first aid gear? Or your spare mags? If you catch your­self look­ing down at those items to re­trieve them dur­ing day­time prac­tice, you may wind up grop­ing around for them in the dark. There’s no one magic “spot” to put stuff that works for every­body. Take what­ever vest, pack, or plate car­rier you may use and prac­tice reach­ing ev­ery sin­gle

pouch or pocket in a dark room or blind­folded. If you can’t un­zip, un­snap, or un­buckle a pouch with­out see­ing it, it might be time to sub out some kit.

The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies to your weapon it­self. This was pri­mar­ily a car­bine class, and the weapon setup por­tion was fo­cused on this. For ex­am­ple, if you run both a light and laser on your car­bine, are you run­ning two sep­a­rate tape switches? Can you re­mem­ber which one is which with­out see­ing them, and can you ac­tu­ate them in­stantly ev­ery time you take up a fir­ing grip/stance? This is where hand stops and ver­ti­cal fore­grips can of­fer a real ad­van­tage — they essen­tially force you to place your sup­port hand in ex­actly the same spot ev­ery time you pick up your car­bine. If you set a stop or grip where it’s most com­fort­able for you, then build your light/laser place­ment around that for­ward in­dex point; it’ll be much eas­ier to use your il­lu­mi­na­tion de­vices quickly and only as needed.

KNOW YOUR LIM­I­TA­TIONS

Night Vi­sion tech­nol­ogy is not the be-all-end-all of mak­ing dark­ness into light. There are phys­i­cal and tech­no­log­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions to be con­sid­ered. One of the big­gest ones is the use of sights and op­tics. Shoot­ing an iron-sighted pis­tol through NVGs is just about im­pos­si­ble. Dur­ing our time in the Night Fighter course, we saw a lot of red dot–equipped pis­tols. Since we were run­ning irons on our sidearm, it gave us the op­por­tu­nity to try both on the range.

The ben­e­fits of op­tics-equipped hand­guns be­come abun­dantly clear within a few rounds. There are a cou­ple of IR laser op­tions for pis­tols, but the pro­lif­er­a­tion of slide-mounted op­tics has even eclipsed th­ese for the most part. When re­fer­ring to car­bines, there are a cou­ple of con­fig­u­ra­tions that can get the job done. The mil­i­tary com­mu­nity has long been run­ning rail-mounted IR lasers. This is prob­a­bly the most user-friendly so­lu­tion, if not the most ex­pen­sive for the con­sumer.

As an ex­am­ple, we used a B.E. Mey­ers MAWL C-1+. The MAWL is awe­some. But the MAWL is also $2,500 — ri­fle not in­cluded. You can also use an NV-ca­pa­ble op­tic, such as an Aim­point or EOTech, both of which have ded­i­cated IR set­tings. But try­ing to get a cheek weld with NVGs hang­ing off your face is chal­leng­ing, to say the least. It’ll also severely limit your ef­fec­tive en­gage­ment range. This can be mit­i­gated with the

use of an IR weapon light, but the cheek weld prob­lem re­mains. It also nar­rows your se­lec­tion of op­tics. If you nor­mally run a red dot, it’s zero im­pact. But with more and more shoot­ers us­ing low-power vari­able op­tics, it could cramp your style.

Lastly, as a warn­ing against the dreaded Mr. Mur­phy, if you do de­cide to run night vi­sion in what­ever ap­pli­ca­tion suits you best, be sure to have a white light backup if and when the $3 bat­ter­ies in your $3,000 NVGs take a sh*t at the most in­op­por­tune of times. Sev­eral high-qual­ity weapon lights on the mar­ket to­day have dual-mode op­er­a­tion. For the class, we used an In­force WMLx IR, which has a man­ual tog­gle to switch back and forth be­tween white light and IR. Re­gard­less of how you skin this cat, re­mem­ber that hav­ing a white light op­tion will give you a re­dun­dancy that’ll prob­a­bly come in handy just when you don’t think you’ll need it.

NIGHT FEVER

As night op­tics tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ues to ad­vance, cur­rently avail­able mod­els of night vi­sion will only con­tinue to pro­lif­er­ate. In ad­di­tion to their in­tended role as a force mul­ti­plier on the bat­tle­field, they’ve be­come an ex­cel­lent tool for hun­ters who pre­fer noc­tur­nal prey — par­tic­u­larly across west­ern Texas where night-dwelling hogs are a varmint that dam­age crops and live­stock. Aside from all of this, shoot­ing un­der night vi­sion is just plain fun. For most of us, the ze­roes in our bank ac­counts would have to line up just right to make a qual­ity night-shoot­ing setup truly fea­si­ble. If this is the case for you, make sure you set aside a few duck­ets for qual­ity in­struc­tion from some­body who has ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing un­der NVGs. Then take the time to set up your gear and prac­tice with it. Af­ter that, put fresh bat­ter­ies in your NVGs, light a cigar, and wait for sun­down.

Proper se­lec­tion and con­fig­u­ra­tion of gear is vi­tal to us­ing night vi­sionef fec­tively.

Don Ed­wards of Green­line Tac­ti­cal was our pri­mar y in­struc­tor forthis course.

If your NVGs are a duty or de­fen­sive tool, make sure your night-fight­ing kit is stowed for a fast jock-up.

Piles of ammo on a con­crete floor is usu­ally the be­gin­ning of a good night.

Ad­di­tional con­sid­er­a­tions for those in team en­vi­ron­ments in­clude in­cor­po­rat­ing comms and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion mark­ers like IR strobes.

Im­paired depth per­cep­tion make sim­ple tasks like walk­ing down the stairs some­what more haz­ardous.

Achiev­ing a proper cheek-weld with gog­gles on your face is a los­ing propo­si­tion. This is where rail-mounted lasers make all the dif­fer­ence.

The au­thor and in­struc­tor Phil Veloso work hall­ways as a two-man el­e­ment.

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