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ITT 6015 / PVS-14 Multipurpose Night Vision Monocular
By Alex Osinski
Note, these items are now sold at savvysurvivor.com and I usually have at least one 6015 in stock at any given time but more are available from my supplier. The real world availability on these varies a lot from month to month. Lots of people who advertise PVS-14s neither have these in stock nor can get them very quickly. Email email@example.com if you are interested in purchasing one of these devices, or accessories and upgrades for one you already own.
March 2005 Update: Prices and availability of PVS-14s and ITT 6015s are in transition. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get a current price quote and delivery time estimate. I am trying to keep at least one of these in stock at any given time.
There are very few technological advancements over the last five years which have affected the life of the infantryman and tactical operator as much as the advent of advanced third generation night vision monoculars. First used by Special Operations forces in the mid-1990s, advanced monoculars quickly gained ground in popularity among those striving to adopt and implement "own the night" technology at the ground level. At the front of this game is the ITT 6015, and its military variant, the PVS-14 which has finally circulated down to standard issue with many if not most US Army regular infantry units.
Interestingly, the ITT monocular is an example of military adoption of off the shelf technology albeit fairly specialized civilian technology that was developed with the military in mind. ITT current makes two versions of this monocular, and both are very similar. The most commonly known is the US military variant which has the military designation AN-PVS-14, or "PVS-14 for short. This stands for "Army/Navy Passive Vision System (type) 14. This is a modification of the ITT 6015 monocular that adds in a manual brightness control to supplement the automatic brightness control that all of the advanced ITT units have. The standard model goes by the commercial designation of 6015, but in slang terms is often referred to as the "PVS-14 commercial". Up to very recently, this has been the most advanced device of its type in common use and it is expected to remain a current item well beyond the year 2012.
The PVS-14 is well liked by the troops it is issued to mainly because of the versatility of the unit. It can be worn in the commercial head mount shown here, in a specialized helmet mount specifically engineered for the USGI PASGT kevlar helmet (and adaptable to other helmets) handheld, or mounted on a weapon using a number of different adapters. Commercial users also find it easy to use the 6015/PVS-14 with available camera adapters for nighttime photography and video.
The versatility of the PVS14 is not without a cost in complexity. While the operation of the device seems simple on the surface, using one of these is more complex than simply turning it on and looking through it. The mounts can be tricky to set up and the device itself not easy to set the initial focus. With that understanding, these units are far from idiot proof, and the difference between a NOD which is the key to nighttime battle instead of useless deadweight in the combat load is a difference between the educated and careful user and the careless person who lacks the ability to understand this piece of equipment.
For the survivalist, the ability to move and act at night goes beyond personal stealth. The PVS-14, like other advanced NODs (Night Observation Device) enables a person to see a lot more than what they could normally see with even the best spotlights and floodlights.
Even more importantly, the NOD allows you to see without being seen, and is very energy efficient when compared to extensive area lighting. The NOD makes it easy to scan a large area without the need of illuminating it with visible light. A multipurpose unit like the 6015 can be cost effective when compared to the specialized goggles and riflescopes of comparable performance. Given little regard for the cost of night vision systems, infantryman prefer the multipurpose NOD over the heavy and bulky proposition of carrying goggles and weapon sights without the need to compromise one or the other for specific missions. Changing the 6015 from helmet mount to head mount to weapon mounted only takes a few minutes. Most of the accessories like the attachable compass, magnifier lenses and the helmet mounts designed for the PVS-7B/D are compatible with the 6015/PVS-14.
It is important to understand all of the features and controls on the PVS-14 in order to get the most utility out of it. First, the unit only takes AA batteries, and alkaline are the most highly recommended. Nickel Cadmium rechargeable batteries often do not produce enough voltage to power the device. The batter cap is marked for the polarity of the way you need to insert the batteries, and this can fool even most experienced electronics users because the little springs and contacts in the battery compartment are arranged in a way that would have you think the batteries need to be installed in parallel, but you actually need to have them facing opposite each other in the manner that is marked on the battery cap. The + and - markings on the battery cap are faint, but they are there molded into it. Once you have the batteries installed in the battery cap, ensure that you have contact with the metal contacts at the ends and then snap the battery cap onto the housing. Make sure both tabs that lock the battery cap in place snap in positively. It helps a lot to run your lanyard cord through the hole in one of the locking tabs so that the battery cap does not get lost if it pops off. The is also helps keep the cap from popping off because the cord itself offers some resistance to the movement of the tab it is attached to.
The main power switch has three clicks, but actually has four settings. Off, on, and IR temporary flash, and IR on. The regular on and off settings are simple enough to understand. Start with the knob all the way counterclockwise to make sure it is off and to reset the unit if it has an automatic cutout feature that was engaged. Rotate the knob one notch clockwise to turn it on. If you rotate the knob clockwise some more, you activate the small IR LED at the front of the unit. Let the knob go, and it will spring back to the "on" position and the LED will turn off. Pull the knob out about 5mm and rotate it clockwise and the IR will stay on. The IR beacon is used to illuminate the area immediately around the user and is sufficient to illuminate a small room, interior of a vehicle, or the path directly in front of the user. As a signal beacon, the LED can be seen a considerable distance by other night vision equipment, even down to first generation starlight stuff. The light put out by the IR beacon is not visible to the naked eye.
Nomenclature for the PVS-14/ ITT 6015
A - Adjustment plunger for head mount - push the plunger in and you can move the head mount NOD mounting point front to rear in about 4 CM of travel. Start at the frontmost setting, put the gooseneck adapter on the mount and then move the whole thing to the rear until you get a good solid round field of view.
B - Gooseneck swing arm knob. Loosen this knob to allow the NOD to swing over for either the right eye or the left eye as you see fit. Tighten it to hold the NOD in place. Do not over tighten this as it is plastic and can be damaged.
C - Gooseneck adapter. The 6015 and PVS-14 variants are nearly identical, but the PVS-14 version costs more because it has electrical components that are for activating the automatic shutoff when the device is removed from the headset.
D - Attachment knob for mounting the gooseneck to the body of the NOD. Note the USGI weapon mount uses the same type of knob. There is a notch in the body of the unit that mates up with a small raised bar in the mount to help ensure alignment when the screw is tightened. Again, do not over tighten the unit or it will be damaged. Finger tight only, no wrenches.
E - IR LED for the IR beacon/illuminator. Note this will not accept the flood lenses that work on the PVS-7B/D. This is also the location of the manual brightness knob on the PVS-14 (the device in the picture is a 6015, so it lacks this knob).
F - Rear ocular adjustment. You want to get this adjustment right before you do much to adjust the front lens for distance. The ocular adjustment has a pretty wide range of movement, so it can adjust to work for most people - even those who have pretty strong eyeglass prescriptions.
G - Rear eyecup. This is to reduce the amount of light that "leaks" out around the user's eye and can be visible to the opposition. The eyecup is removable and adjustable to some extent for use over either eye.
H - Main power switch, as explained in the above text. The function of this switch is identical on all current issue ITT night vision gear including the PVS-7B/D, PVS-14, 6015 and their riflescope.
I - Battery compartment, takes two AA alkaline batteries. Use caution when installing the batteries and check polarity on the battery cap.
J - Lanyard; this is no joke, the lanyard helps keep the lens cap and battery cap from getting lost. It is long enough for most users to wear around their neck as a "dummy cord" for when the NOD is detached from the head mount but not put back in the carry case.
K - This is the US standard NOD mount used in both the PVS-7 and PVS-14, thus also the 6015. Point the arrow into the socket of whatever head or helmet mount you are using and then push it in until the lever clicks. Push the lever down and pull the NOD forward in order to remove it from the mount. Note, that this is not exactly a precision part. It has some wiggle even when fully locked in place.
L - The front to rear adjustment on the helmet mount. Like with the head mount, you want to start out in the frontmost position and then adjust it back. Push the lever down to get the mounting socket assembly to move.
M - Helmet mount pitch angle lever. Rotate this lever to adjust the pitch angle of the NOD in relation to the helmet.
N - Helmet mounting plate. This attaches using straps, a screw or both. The strap assembly is complex and not very reliable. The best way to hold this in place is to cut a hole in the helmet cover and use the helmet suspension mounting screw (or a similar screw that is slightly longer) to hold it in place. Newer helmets and mounting plates may require drilling to get this in the right spot, then use a small screw and nut to hold it together.
O - Helmet mount adapter tab. You have to make sure this in place on the mounting plate before you snap it in place. Always connect the top first, getting the tab under the lip of the helmet mounting plate, then rotate the entire assembly downward until the movable tap (near point Q) snaps in place.
P - This part of the helmet mount allows the entire assembly to flip up without removing it from the helmet. It is held in place by spring tension, so just push it hard to flip the assembly up, and pull it hard to flip the assembly down. You should not be losing your adjustments when you do this.
Q- There is a plunger type lever on the helmet mount that activates the lower tab on the adapter so that it can lock or unlock from the helmet mount adapter plate. Make sure it is positively locked in place before running around with the helmet mounted NOD.
R - Light Interference Filter - Normally only found on military units, this filter protects the tube from being damaged by lasers. It also helps protect a little bit from damage caused by inadvertent removal of the lens cap in daylight.
S - Compass. This is compatible with the PVS-7B/D and the ITT monocular. It gives readings only in degrees and prevents use of the lens cap or sacrificial lens.
Parts and controls on the PVS-14 and 6015 are identical except for the addition of a manual brightness knob located near the battery compartment opening on the PVS-14 near location "E" on the picture below.
US government issue devices are marked "US Government Property at the point marked "XX". This marking is embedded into the plastic, not a readily removable label. Commercial units should be absent of any marking or label here whatsoever, and should show no evidence of grinding or scratching.
Every 6015/PVS-14 comes with a "gooseneck" adapter so that it can be used with headmounts and helmet mounts originally designed for the PVS-7B. The adapter screws into a threaded hole in the body of the monocular. Notice how the threaded hole is a standard size and pitch that is used in most cameras and spotting scopes. The gooseneck has a knob at the front of it near where it mounts to the headmount that you can loosen up and then allow the NOD to swing over for use with the other eye. This is to avoid the eye strain that was previously common with night vision users that would damage their natural night vision ability. Using a NOD that covers only one eye at a time doubles the effective time that a person can use the NOD without serious eye fatigue because the device can be switched from one eye to the other to give the unaided eye a rest period. Some people develop headaches because their brain gets strained in trying to combine the enhanced NV image from one eye with the natural vision of the other eye. If adjustment of the device and headset cannot solve this, then it is probably best to either limit use of the device or switch to a PVS-7B. That is one reason why the PVS-7B is still currently being purchased and issued by the US military. Oddly, even though the PVS-14 is a smaller unit that covers only one eye, it has a slightly larger field of view than the PVS-7 series. Light gain and image quality are about the same on current military units, but the monocular almost always come with better tubes when they are on the open market and since there are older PVS-7s floating around the military supply chains, there is a general perception that the PVS-14 is higher technology than the PVS-7, but this is just a perception. They are all current manufacturer current issue devices.
The threaded mounting hole in the body of the monocular makes the monocular compatible for use with most camera tripods, spotting scope window mounts, and some camera adapters. I recommend the ITT camera adapter if you are going to use the monocular for serious photography but I have found it possible to simply snap the NOD onto the front of some camera lenses like the on on my Sony Mavica. The US military issue weapon mount uses the same threaded hole and notch for alignment and attachment of the scope, but don't be surprised if it shifts around a little bit in the mount. The PVS-14 and 6015 do not have any internal reticule, so using one of these mounted to a weapon means you aim with an laser attached to the gun, an dot type sight mounted in front of the NOD, or by point shooting. Note that in using the PVS-14 in conjunction with a scope like the Eotech or the Aimpoint, you want the electronic weapon sight set at its lowest possible setting in order to avoid burning the image of the reticule into the tube. By far, the most desirable way to aim while using the NOD is with an IR laser. The IR laser is invisible to the naked eye buy plainly visible through the device.