Can you use night vision scopes during the day?

Night vision scopes are tools that offer the user to zoom in on different objects through the night with great and clear vision no matter how dark it is – the only requirement is natural ambient lights such as moonlight and starlight that needs to be used by the scopes to amplify it and give the user a clear night vision picture.

But can you use night vision scopes during the day? Shortly answered – NO they cannot be used during the day.

In every case when using night vision scopes and other devices, the requirement is as mentioned the ambient light provided from the moon and starlight to produce an image. When talking during the day, even the smallest shadow will make those devices unusable. Modern night vision optics and scopes come with a built-in infrared light illuminator that cannot function properly during the day.

When talking about thermal night vision scopes – the principle of the thermal system is that it detects objects that radiate heat. But when sunlight is present, the thermal vision gets very confused and the user will see nothing but unrecognizable bright light, if used during the day. The image intensification tubes used for the external light sources are very sensitive and can easily be permanently damaged if exposed to a bright light – the sun light, that is why night vision scopes cannot be used during the day, only in the night.

What exactly are the night vision scopes and what is their usage, when taken into consideration they cannot be used during daylight?

Night vision scopes are normally handheld or adjustably-mounted devices which are based on a monocular technology with a one-eyed piece. The original purpose of the night vision scope is to locate and identify different objects and targets at night on greater distances. Other usage for the night vision scopes include targeting and even surveillance

So basically – is every single night vision technology unusable during the day?

With most night vision technologies, this is the case. The normal night vision scopes cannot operate during the day at all and most thermal night vision optics give the user a very bright confusing picture. But is not like there isn’t any single night vision scope that CANNOT be used during the day also. The problem is that the image intensifier tubes used in conventional night vision devices, when exposed during the daylight, as mentioned give a very confusing picture and can basically overheat and get permanently damaged if exposed to bright sunlight. To prevent this case, there are expensive additions like auto-gating that protects the thermal night vision scope so that the image intensifier tube will basically SHUT DOWN itself when exposed to damaging daylight or bright lights. The further-developed FLIR technology does not have those problems actually.

In the daytime, it reads heat exactly as it does during the night, without the dangers of overheating or giving the user a confusing picture. The thermal information that is received by the scope cannot be ‘’over-exposed’’ to daylight and bright lights and its highlighting ability is very valuable during the day too! A specific object, even under a camouflage cover or very far out will still emit certain heat that the device can easily pick up, regardless of whether there is bright lights or sunlight present.

The FLIR technology has a protective cover over the lens, that does not hinder the thermal image and is invisible to the human eye but offers great protection to the device, blocking out excess heat from the bright lights and sunlight and prevent the overheating of the lens and further permanent damage. FLIR also has the option of changing its pallets to change how the detected picture is perceived by the user in temperature differences. The user can choose white-hot or black-hot options that can greatly aid in differentiating warm and cool objects depending how high the temperature of the weather is. Another setting the FLIR possesses is the FLIR InstAlert setting that will basically highlight the hottest objects in the surroundings and field of view. There are three levels of this setting as the sensitivity changes from 1 to 3 – while 1 is for a cooler environment and setting 3 is for the hottest and most humid environment, preventing foggy lenses.

Night Vision Scope usage in hunting

In the case of night vision scopes, the most common usage of this device is for hunting. A great and handy ability the night vision scopes with thermal technology possess is that they can reveal whether certain areas are disturbed – if the ground is dug up by an animal and can even detect certain footprints that are invisible to the human eye. Comparing average hunters to military enforcement, this principle of footprint detection is used to investigate certain areas for finding wanted criminals and even dug up bodies as the minimal thermal heat from the body can still be detected by the thermal night vision scope, even when it’s below the ground!

When using night vision scopes, let’s compare both of the technologies – the thermal scope and the normal night vision scope.

Firstly, don’t forget that thermal scopes are not cameras, they are only thermal image detecting radiation. The higher the temperature, the more radiation gets received by the thermal scope. An object’s heat radiation is higher than that of its surroundings and in consequence the scope gives you an image. Since thermal scopes detect only heat, the user can often make out very small animals in very deep cover or in thick fog. The detection ability is very good, but the detection image cannot be clear enough to determine a proper shot placement and there will be handling practice required as thermal scopes are much heavier than the normal night vision scope.

The normal night vision scopes on the other hand tend to produce a much more natural and detailed image. Night vision scopes have been mounted on rifles for ages and are much more rugged and absorb the gun’s recoil very well. Taking this into consideration, there is a big drawback – the image intensification tube that is used in the normal night vision scopes have a more sensitive lens and as mentioned, any brighter light than normal can damage the lens permanently.

Overall pros and cons of both devices

The advantage of the thermal optic is that it does not require ambient lights to operate. On the other hand, the thermal scopes are much heavier, larger and don’t give as great of an image as the normal night vision scope. The thermal scope has quite a limited battery life and cannot see through glass. Additionally, because if is a THERMAL technology after all, if used under very cold conditions, the cold can greatly affect the image quality, because the same as when tried to be used during daylight, the cold temperature does not allow the thermal scope to accurately detect objects that radiate heat.

The main pros of the night vision scopes include a much more natural image, the model of the device itself is tougher, much more durable to certain conditions and even much more affordable for the average hunter for example. The night vision scopes possess a larger FoV (field-of-vision) as well. The cons of the night visions copes are that certain factors like camouflage, different shadows dust and thick fog can obscure the ability to detect a target.

Related Questions

  • How long do night vision scopes last? – Thermal and night vision scopes are very solid-state technologies and used under normal conditions can actually last a lifetime. Depending of the different generations of the scopes used, an average thermal or night vision scope can last as long as 5,000 hours of usage to more than 13,000 hours!
  • What is better thermal or night vision? – Both have their different advantages and disadvantages when used under specific conditions.  The thermal imaging detects radiating heat and can easily be confused by bright lights and different light sources, but give a much greater detecting distance and can be used through very foggy, dusty and rainy conditions. The night vision scope has a smaller detection range and field of view, but gives a much clearer image to the user when compared to the thermal imaging. Depending on what the purpose of the use if, both have their advantages and disadvantages as this is said, it cannot be determined which is considered better.
  • Are night vision scopes legal? – A popular opinion is that it is illegal to own a night vision scope. While under some conditions this is in fact true, per state regulations the night vision scopes cannot be aided with any artificial light that has an included infrared light into its system. Therefore, the infrared lights that are emitted from the night vision scopes are not legal for the use of shining, but can be freely used under hunting conditions, point of kill and mainly navigational purposes.

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