Integrating Red Dot Sights with Night Vision Gear for Tactical Advantage

Chris G.

Most shooters use their firearms during the day when visibility is at maximum. However, some people’s jobs require them to be ready to use their firearms anytime, even at night. Military operatives and law enforcement officers are sometimes required to infiltrate enemy territory, undergo a special mission, or patrol the streets in the darkness of night.

Are you a nocturnal shooter? A soldier who operates at night? A police officer tasked to patrol the streets as people sleep? Then your night vision equipment serves as your dependable “eye in the darkness.” But imagine adding another component to your tactical arsenal that could not only improve your precision but also provide a strategic advantage!

That component is a red dot. The red dot allows you to shoot quickly and accurately. Combining this with your night vision equipment could potentially allow you to acquire a superior edge necessary to succeed in a night operation. 

Are Red Dot Sights Usable At Night

Your red dot should work optimally during the day. But can they work at night?

In general, red dot sights are generally usable at night without night vision gear, provided there is sufficient ambient light for the sight’s reticle to be visible. The reticle and the target may be visible during late dusk or in a dimly lighted room, for example.

At first glance, a red dot seems to be ideal for use at night. After all, the reticle is a light source; it should be visible even when it’s dark. In reality, however, using a red dot sight in the dark is more complex than that.

Shooters find that the red dot might glare in total darkness. It becomes overly bright, which overpowers the target view. Others may find it too dim.

Even if you can actually see the red dot, you may not be able to see your target.  

Understanding Night Vision Technology

man with gun at night time

To see—and shoot—in near or total darkness, you need to use night vision gear such as a night vision scope, goggles, or binoculars. With night vision technology, we can clearly see in the dark, a feat that is incredibly challenging by the naked eye.

Let’s see how night vision gear works. 

How Night Vision Works

Night vision gear captures and amplifies available ambient light (including light from the moon and stars or infrared light sources) to provide enhanced visibility in low-light or nighttime conditions. The technology behind night vision devices (NVDs) can vary. However, the basic principles involve the conversion of incoming light into visible images. 

  1. Light Gathering: Night vision devices have a lens that collects ambient light from the surroundings. This incoming light may include natural moonlight, starlight, or artificial sources like infrared illuminators.
  2. Photon Conversion: A component called a photocathode converts photons (particles of light) into electrons through a process called photoemission.
  3. Electron Amplification: These electrons are accelerated towards a phosphor screen by an electrostatic field. As the electrons strike the phosphor screen, the phosphor screen emits photons.
  4. Image Intensification: The emitted photons create a visible image on the phosphor screen, effectively amplifying the original light. This intensified image is visible to the person through an eyepiece or display. The observer sees a green-tinted image since many night vision devices use a green phosphor screen, which is easier for the human eye to distinguish.

There are different generations of night vision technology, each offering improvements in performance and image quality. The key advancements include changes in photocathode materials, the addition of microchannel plates for better electron multiplication, and the use of advanced optics.

Generations of Night Vision

When talking about night vision gear, you might encounter the term “generations.” Night vision devices can be classified into several generations:

  • Generation 1 (Gen 1): The earliest night vision devices with basic image intensification capabilities.
  • Generation 2 (Gen 2): Improved image quality and performance, often with better light amplification.
  • Generation 3 (Gen 3): Enhanced sensitivity, resolution, and reduced noise. Gen 3 devices are widely used in military and law enforcement applications.
  • Generation 4 (Gen 4): Further improvements in image quality and reduced halo effect. Gen 4 devices are less common and typically used in specialized applications.

Red Dot and Night Vision Optics

man holding a red dot sight

Properly paired, the combination of a red dot and an NVD can increase your accuracy and response time in dimly lit or totally dark conditions.

Let’s discuss how to properly assemble a red dot sight along with a night vision scope for the best results.

Red Dot Sight Compatibility with Night Vision Devices

Can you use a red dot sight with night vision? It depends. Not every red dot sight is compatible with night vision. If you use a non-NVD compatible red dot, the dot will be excessively bright when viewed through the NVD. It would be so bright that it would oversaturate the target. It would also create an unwanted bloom or halo effect.

An NVD-compatible red dot has a variety of low-intensity settings that prevent the creation of a ‘bloom’ or halo effect in your night vision optics. It significantly decreases the reticle’s glare to ensure that you have a clear view of your target at all times.

Mounting a Red Dot Sight Together with a Night Vision Scope

After you’ve found an NVG-compatible red dot sight, you’ll need to know how to effectively pair them. That involves properly mounting them on your firearm.

Mounting a red dot sight together with a night vision scope involves using a specific setup that allows both devices to work in tandem. 

  1. Select the Right Mounts: Make sure that both the red dot sight and the night vision scope are equipped with compatible mounts. Picatinny or Weaver mounts for each device are the most common.
  2. Determine the Mounting Position: Decide where you want to mount the red dot sight in relation to the night vision scope. Common configurations include mounting the red dot sight in front of the night vision scope for a co-witness setup.
  3. Check for Adequate Rail Space: Make sure there is enough rail space on your firearm to accommodate both the night vision scope and the red dot sight. If space is limited, you may need rail adapters or risers to create additional mounting options.
  4. Install the Night Vision Scope: Begin by mounting the night vision scope onto the firearm’s rail. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for securing the scope in place.
  5. Install the Red Dot Sight Mount: Attach the mount for the red dot sight to the firearm’s rail. Make sure it is positioned to allow for a clear field of view through the night vision scope.
  6. Mount the Red Dot Sight: Attach the red dot sight to its mount. Ensure that the red dot sight is securely fastened to the mount.
  7. Align the Sights: With both the night vision scope and the red dot sight mounted, align the reticles or aiming points. The goal is to achieve a co-witness, where the point of aim through the red dot sight corresponds with the point of aim through the night vision scope.
  8. Test and Adjust: Perform test shots to confirm the alignment and adjust the red dot sight if necessary. 
  9. Secure and Lock in Place: Once you’re satisfied with the alignment, ensure that all mounting screws are securely tightened. Some shooters may use thread-locking compounds to prevent screws from loosening due to recoil.
  10. Check for Interference: There should be no interference between the red dot sight and the night vision scope during operation. Both devices should function without obstruction.

Always refer to the specific user manuals and guidelines provided by the manufacturers of the red dot sight and night vision scope for detailed instructions on mounting procedures and compatibility.

Optimizing Red Dot Sights for Night Vision Gear

Optimizing your red dot sights to work well with your night vision gear requires a good understanding of how both devices function. Specifically, it involves ensuring that the sight’s reticle is compatible with night vision technology. You may also need to make adjustments to improve visibility in low-light conditions.

1. Night Vision Compatible Red Dot Sight: Start by choosing a red dot sight that is specifically designed to be compatible with night vision devices. Look for a sight that has a reticle suitable for use with night vision technology. Many modern red dot sights come with adjustable brightness settings that can be used in conjunction with night vision gear.

2. Adjust Brightness Settings: Set the red dot sight to the lowest NVD brightness setting that is visible through your night vision device. Gradually increase the brightness until the reticle is visible through the NVD. Take note: excessive brightness can cause glare and reduce the effectiveness of the night vision system. 

3. Co-Witness with Night Vision Scope: Align the red dot sight’s reticle with the night vision scope’s reticle to provide a consistent point of aim. This co-witness helps maintain accuracy when transitioning between the two sighting systems.

4. Familiarize Yourself with Controls: Be familiar with the controls of your red dot sight, especially those related to brightness adjustments. Familiarity with the controls allows you to make quick adjustments in the field without compromising your night vision.

5. Test in Various Conditions: Field-test your setup in different low-light conditions to simulate real-world scenarios. Consider factors such as moonlight, starlight, and artificial lighting. Make any necessary adjustments to optimize performance.

6. Regular Maintenance: Keep both your optics clean and well-maintained. Dust, dirt, or smudges on the lens can affect visibility. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning and maintenance.

Always consult the user manuals provided by the manufacturers of your red dot sight and night vision gear for specific instructions and recommendations.

Tactical Advantages of Red Dot Sights Used Together with Night Vision Gear

man with gun at night time

Using red dot sights with night vision equipment in the right way presents several strategic benefits.

  1. Improved Target Acquisition: Red dot sights provide a quick and intuitive aiming solution. When used in conjunction with night vision gear, users can acquire and engage targets more efficiently in complete darkness. 
  2. Improved Situational Awareness: Night vision gear allows users to see their surroundings in low-light conditions. Combining this with a red dot sight improves your situational awareness by providing a clear point of aim in the dark.
  3. Co-Witness Capability: Co-witnessing a red dot sight with a night vision scope ensures that the point of aim remains consistent between the two sighting systems. 
  4. Flexibility in Engaging Targets: Whether engaging close-quarter targets or those at a moderate distance, the red dot sight, when paired with night vision, provides flexibility in engaging targets effectively in scenarios with limited or no light.
  5. Fast Target Transitions: Red dot sights facilitate quick target transitions. Night vision compatibility ensures these rapid transitions can occur seamlessly in low-light conditions.
  6. Reduced Eye Fatigue: The reticle of a red dot sight is easy on the eyes and minimizes eye fatigue during extended use. 
  7. Precision in Close-Quarter Combat (CQB): When paired with night vision gear, users can maintain precision and accuracy in CQB scenarios in limited or no light.
  8. Increased Operational Range: Night vision technology extends the operational range into low-light and nighttime conditions. Adding a red dot sight further increases the effective range by providing a reliable aiming solution at varying distances.
  9. Maintained Stealth and Concealment: Red dot sights can be used in conjunction with night vision to maintain a low-profile and avoid giving away the shooter’s position. 

Conclusion

In the dark, surviving is not enough. You need to take command and control.

Using red dot sights in conjunction with night vision gear can significantly improve your performance in low-light settings. This powerful combination can increase your precision, expand your field of view, and escalate your tactical effectiveness. In situations where every second is vital, these tools can make all the difference.

About the author

The name's Chris. Just a regular dude who loves firearms. I've been shooting since I was a kid. My old man taught me the ropes.

I'll never forget the first time I missed an easy shot on a buck, thanks to a bum scope. The image was fuzzier than my dog's butt. After that, I got obsessed with understanding scopes. What makes the good ones tick and the bad ones trash. After a few years and a few thousand bucks, I learned what separates the winners from the losers. Once I had a good stockpile of knowledge, I launched this site.

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