By Chris A. Choat
Night vision devices have been used by the military for decades. In fact, they have been around since the late 1930s and were used by the militaries on both sides during World War II. These devices started out as huge contraptions that required even larger power sources. They were originally used by the U.S. Army in the form of the M1 and M3 models that used a large infrared light source. As time and technology marched on, the devices have become smaller, lighter, have a higher resolution and can now work in almost no light allowing the user to not only see in the dark, but to aim a weapon, drive a vehicle or even fly an aircraft.
Today, there is hardly an evening newscast that doesn’t involve an image or video viewed through a night vision device of some sort. These devices have also now become the ultimate in firearm accessories. Not only does almost every U.S. soldier have one but almost every police or law enforcement agency has at least one. In recent years the price on night vision has come down dramatically allowing even individuals to now own them and several states allow them to be used in hunting predators such a feral hogs.
This new demand for night vision firearm sights have driven manufacturers, such as Aimpoint, EOTech and others to make some models of their red dot type sights available with night vision settings. These settings are so low that they cannot be seen with the naked eye but only when viewed through night vision devices. While this has enabled users to put night vision monoculars such as the PVS-14 or the MUM-14 behind these sights, there are still sometimes issues combining everything on a firearm. The first is that a separate mount must be used to mount the monocular to the firearm. These mounts are very expensive, costing several hundred dollars and there is still the issue of getting everything lined up. There is also the cost for the sights themselves. Most all of the quality sights on the market cost well above $500. Add this to the cost of the mount and it brings the cost of mounting a night vision sight to a firearm cost prohibitive except for a select few. Another obstacle that sometimes needs to be overcome is the amount of room it takes to mount everything. Sometimes the amount of rail space required for the sight, the night vision device with mount and a set of back up sights just isn’t available. This doesn’t even take into account the additional weight you add to the gun.
A company called Armasight, Inc., (www.armasight.com) has solved all these problems in one new piece of gear called the AIM (Advance Integrated Mount). The new mount not only solves the above mentioned problems, it is an exciting new concept as well. The AIM allows the operator to convert a standard night vision monocular into a weapon sight. For soldiers and law enforcement this means that they can use the helmet mount monoculars that they already have to be used on their weapon without adding additional weight or taking up excess rail space or trying to get it all to line up. For hunters, not only is there weight savings but it keeps their cost down as well.
What the AIM does is combine a sight, a sight mount and a night vision mount into one compact unit and does it all for a cost of less than $300. The AIM sight is housed in a low-profile housing that also incorporates a Picatinny rail mount on the bottom and a dovetail night vision monocular mount on the top. The dovetail of the mount is machined to accept the fast-attach mini rail as is used on the MUM-14. The AIM can also be ordered with an optional attachment piece that converts the threaded hole on the PVS-14 to the MUM type fast-attach rail. The mount has spring loaded, locking quick-release levers on both the Picatinny rail mount as well as the night vision dovetail.
The sight part of the unit consists of an optical-mechanical collimated LED module with elevation and windage adjustment controls and a battery housing with a rheostat. The collimator, at its front, has a small post that houses the tiny light emitting diode that works like a pattern generator. This pattern generator projects a heads up display (HUD) type prism, in the form of an aiming reticle, right onto the front of the objective lens of the night vision device. This reticle is in the form of a 65 MOA circle with a single 3.2 MOA aiming dot in its center. The rheostat controls the brightness of the LED and has 11 settings, three of which are for daytime use. The unit runs on a single CR2032 coin-type battery and has a battery life of 12,000 hours at the middle brightness setting. The AIM is machined from aluminum alloy and has steel locking levers as well as steel rail cross pieces. The unit is finished in a matte black hard anodized coating that matches most “black gun” finishes. The AIM unit weighs just over 5 ounces without a night vision monocular attached.
Armasight provided one of the new AIM units for testing. While Armasight offers over 30 monocular night vision devices, I chose to use my own PVS-14 for the testing. The AIM comes in two models; one for the MUM-14 only and another called the PVS-14 ready model. The PVS-14 ready model comes with the adapter piece so this model will actually accept either model of night vision monocular.
The unit is very easy to set up. The adapter comes with a threaded thumbscrew, with a coin slot, that screws right into the threaded hole on the PVS-14. This adapter will then allow the PVS-14 to be mounted to the AIM using the mini fast-attach rail. You then rotate the QD throw lever until it locks and the AIM and PVS-14 are locked together into one very solid unit. Once this is completed, the AIM is positioned on the user's firearm via the Picatinny or Weaver type rail on the top of the receiver and you’re ready to sight it in. Both locking levers on the unit can be adjusted for rail tightness by means of a locking nut on the opposite end of the throw levers threaded shaft. This feature allows for rigid mounting even to rails that might not be Mil-Spec. Then all that’s left to do is sight the AIM in for your particular gun, which can be done in one of two ways. Either with the optional 3.5 x Mono day optic, in daylight, or just sight the unit in at night using standard sight-in procedures. The 3.5 Mono is also available from Armasight and fits the fast-attach rail in place of the NV monocular. As mentioned earlier, the AIM has three daytime brightness settings. These settings are used when the 3.5 x Mono is attached giving the AIM additional use as a standard daytime red dot sight.
The test involved shooting on nights with no moon under both clear and cloudy skies. Targets used were humanoid shaped at ranges of up to 150 yards. Hits at these ranges were no problem with the author’s AR-15 rifle in 300 Blackout. For consistent hits at ranges beyond 150 yards you need either better vision than I have or a steadier hand but the AIM is perfectly capable. Testing involved both supersonic as well as subsonic ammunition; basically using the same point of aim on any target within 50 yards. The AIM stayed mounted firmly to the rifle during all of the testing and actually retained zero when removed and reinstalled on the gun or when the NV monocular was removed and put back on.
Armasight is a relatively new company, being in business just since May of 2012. Not only are they producing the AIM but also have a full line of all generations of night vision as well as thermal imaging devices. They will also, in the near future, be carrying helmets with NV mounts as well as a line of illumination tools in both IR and white light. As this article goes to press, Armasight has announced that there will be a second model of the AIM called the Armasight Aim L-Pro. This model will be longer with more space between the arm that houses the LED and the front of the NV monocular. This added space allows for a 3X magnifier to be installed on the front objective lens of the monocular turning the unit into a three power night sight.
As far as the AIM, this author thinks they have a winner. It offers to solve the problems of combining a night vision device with a firearm sight without all of the previous obstacles. It is a very well made device for a price that simply cannot be beat. If you own a night vision monocular you need one of these.
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