March 25, 2020
Night Vision. It will change your life, seriously. Being able to walk outside into a seemingly pitch black environment, and being able to literally flip a switch to see what’s going on around you is a life changing experience. For years we’ve been able to easily adapt Night Vision devices to the AR platform, but I’ve never really seen ‘modern’ Night Vision on an AK. With the availability of AK parts, accessories and more importantly, ammo; it’s only fitting that we change this. Why not take advantage of the terminal performance of the 7.62x39mm cartridge and reliability of the AK operating system, in the dark.
Not being able to easily and securely attach an optical device to the top an AK has been a huge limiting factor for me when it comes to incorporating modern Night Vision to the Kalashnikov. Sure, you can strap on a laser and run a set of dual tube binos, but let’s be honest; not everyone that’s getting into the Night Vision game is going to run out and spend $7-8k on a set of Sentinels or ANVIS 9s and a thousand bucks on a laser. Or maybe you are, in which case, can I borrow twenty bucks?
As I have watched over the past several years, there have been some companies in the AK arena that have been working to change the game. One is the folks over at Krebs Custom. They have been developing an accurized AK based rifle which gives the shooter all of the luxurious rail space we have become so accustomed to on the AR15 today. With the Krebs AC15-Mod2, lack of rail space is no longer an issue and more importantly, I’m able to mount my PVS-14 behind an Aimpoint T2.
If you’re like me, you dipped your toe into the Night Vision world with a PVS-14. This is a single-tube monocular viewing device which is both affordable and very versatile. A single-tube unit like this can be carried in your pocket and used hand held for spot checking areas you can’t see with the naked eye. It can also be mounted to a helmet or a low profile adapter such as the Wilcox Skull Lock for a more stable viewing platform. Or, it can be mounted onto a rifle behind a red dot sight. The latter of these is what I’m most interested in for several reasons but chiefly because the entire system can be used without the need of an IR laser. For me, mounting a single Night Vision tube behind a red dot such as an Aimpoint or EOTech is probably one of the easiest ways to utilize a rifle in the dark. Not much changes for the shooter with regards to acquiring a sight picture. One of the main differences is that the shooter is not able to see outside of the field of view of the Night Vision device unlike shooting during the day when you’re able to see areas around the optic with your non-dominant eye. More importantly, if you’re educating and introducing new shooters to shooting in the dark, it’s easy to hand over your blaster and have them look through the sight to see what you’re looking at. Looking over a rifle with an IR laser and a head mounted Night Vision device is not natural for some shooters, so this has been an easier method of shooting at night, for me.
While you probably already have a red dot sight on your rifle, I’d like to discuss them for just a moment. Personally, I prefer the single dot of an Aimpoint or Trijicon MRO over an EOTech on my rifles. Yes, the viewing window is smaller, but I find that I prefer the single dot as it’s not as busy as the EOTech’s reticle. This is merely personal preference, use what works best for you. I will say one of the things you’ll notice with a Night Vision device mounted behind the Aimpoint is the housing of the sight shows up in the NVDs field of view. For me, the outside housing of the Aimpoint obstructs some of the field of view. The EOTech does it as well, but because the housing of the Aimpoint T2 is smaller than the housing of the EoTech, more of the Aimpoint housing is visible. To me, it’s not a big deal and once you’ve shot through it for a while, it’s not distracting. If the Night Vision device is focused properly, it just adds blur around the outside of the visible FOV inside the Night Vision tube. No biggie. While we’re on the topic of red dots, not all dots are created equal. The Aimpoint T2 possesses lower power settings for the visible dot. This makes it Night Vision friendly and eliminating a visible “bloom” as you look through the Night Vision device. You can easily tune the Aimpoint’s intensity specifically to the environment you find yourself in.
I ordered the Night Vision equipment mounted onto this Krebs AK from the folks over at Nightlong Industries. This PVS-14 is Auto-Gated, and with a Mil-Spec housing, it will hold up to the recoil of the 7.62x39mm cartridge. It also pulls double duty for me by taking photos and video with my iPhone. Being able to view live Night Vision images on my iPhone, I’m able to use this as a make shift monitor in the field for others to watch what’s going. This is a huge help as everyone doesn’t have to have their own individual piece of Night Vision. The PVS-14 has a built in IR illuminator and accepts standard PVS-14 eye pieces and lenses. Because I use this for photography and video, I chose to have an AVS-9 objective lens installed instead of a standard PVS-14 lens. The AVS-9 lens provides much more precise focusing than the PVS-14 option. Both are equally rigid and durable. This particular tube differs from most PVS-14 tubes because it will accept two AA batteries. While a single AA battery will last for a pretty good while, with the dual AA option, I don’t have to worry about it giving out in the middle of a hunt.
Attaching the PVS-14 to the top of the rifle is a Wilcox Flip Mount base. Trusted for years on the battlefield, this mount allows me to keep the same standard shoe on the base of the Night Vision device that is found on Wilcox’s J-Arm that attaches to a helmet mount. To get more use out of the Wilcox flip mount, I can attach a dove tail mount (also available from Wilcox) to the bottom of an Aimpoint or EOTech magnifier and put that in place of the Night Vision device for daytime shooting. Attaching the flip mount to the rifle is as easy as fastening a few flat head screws. Although attaching and detaching is easy, lockup between the Night Vision and the mount is super secure and stable with no excessive wobble or slop. This unit will also take the recoil from 7.62x39mm with no issue.
Sometimes you may find yourself inside of a closed structure, or the ambient light may not provide enough illumination for the Night Vision device to perform to the best of its ability. Enter the Surefire Vampire series of lights. I mounted the Surefire M300V— IR Scout Light to the front of this AK to help provide extra IR illumination when the situation dictates. The newer series of Vampire lights have an IR and white light output of 100.0 mW and 250 lumens, respectively. Activated with a “clicky” style tail cap, the light can be activated momentarily by a half push, or a full press with an audible “click” will activate the light in constant mode. One of the convenient things about the Vampire series of lights is the rotating bezel. By twisting the self-locking selector on the bezel, the shooter is able to choose between white or IR illumination. Leave those pesky IR filters at home.
One thing that is always in the front of my mind while shooting is the four fundamentals of firearms. All equally important, “do not point your firearm at anything you are not prepared to kill” is one that really sticks out to me when I think about Night Vision. Because the source of IR illumination is on my rifle, I’m effectively disregarding that rule should I just need to use the Surefire IR illuminator on the rifle to merely look into a dark area. Say I’m moving around inside of house or peering into the corner of a dark field, I may want to be able to illuminate areas without having to use my rifle. Now then, about once a year I have a good idea, and I think this one qualifies. Having a few spare parts lying around (I admit, I’m a flashlight hoarder) I took the KM1-A head from a Vampire light and installed it on an E1D LED Defender body. And just like that, I’ve got a handheld IR illumination device in the palm of my hand. Surefire does offer the Vampire V1 handheld light, but I already had these parts and they were not being used so I figured why not put them to good use. Plus, this option provides for a much better story.
Next, I reached out to the folks at B.E. Meyers and I was able to get my hands on a brand new product that was just released for the military. The MAWL (Modular Advanced Weapon Laser) is a full featured infrared and visible (green) aiming and illumination laser for individual carbines. The MAWL offers improved ergonomics, interface and performance over other similar offerings in the market. The MAWL addresses the use of space concerns on smaller carbines like the Mk18, and in our case, the AK. I’m able to maintain the same shooting grip and utilize the laser and/or illuminator. For me, this is a huge plus because I don’t have to modify my shooting grip to activate a laser or illuminator. Adding an aftermarket pressure switch can add to the functionality when transitioning to a support hand shooting position. The MAWL is completely modular and can be configured for right handed, or left handed shooters. Ruggedized for military use, there’s no worry for failure if it gets wet or banged around. Equipped with long, mid and short range modes; it can handle any situation you throw at it. Most importantly, BE Meyers is going to release a civilian legal version of this laser very soon so all of us can take advantage of this awesome and ergonomic design.
Activating the IR Illuminator or laser with some devices can prove to be quite challenging in the dark. Unlike the MAWL, other units have buttons and switches in various locations with different positions for visible lasers, IR lasers, IR illuminators, etc. Adding a pressure switch like the Tactical Augmented Pressure Switch (T.A.P.S.) from Tactical Night Vision Company (TNVC) can make things a heck of a lot easier. Collaborating with the designers at Unity Tactical, TNVC has finally released the T.A.P.S. after much anticipation. This pressure switch is a user configurable device that will allow the rifleman to set each button to specifically activate the device of their choosing. Attaching via KeyMod, M-LOK, or Picatinny rail, the T.A.P.S. is a super robust, secure option over standard offerings which attach with only velcro, rubber bands or tape. I specifically programmed the individual switches to activate the Surefire Scout light and the BE Meyers MAWL independently of one another.
There is an extra allure of the AK by not being tied to a buffer, buffer spring and buffer tube. Having the ability to fold the stock for easy transport and storage is handy. I can throw the folded down AK into an Arcteryx Khard 45 pack with some Velocity Systems inserts and hit the woods without having to lug around a large rifle case. This makes transporting your gear in your vehicle, ATV/UTV, or on foot much less cumbersome. It also doesn’t scream “I have a gun” when you're moving to your vehicle in a public place. Bonus. Using Night Vision on the AK platform is a new experience for me, and I hope that by reading this piece, you’ll get the bug too and go shoot stuff in the dark.
Tactical Night Vision Company (TNVC)