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PVS-5 Night Vision Goggles

The AN PVS-5 Night vision goggles entered US military service as a top of the line night vision device in the 1980s and were rumored to be in use with the CIA and outfits like Delta force as early as 1979.   They were most widely distributed during the 1990 Gulf War and the invasion of Panama although many special operations forces had then upgraded to the PVS-7.   Some variants of the PVS-5 are still in use with units primarily serving a training function in addition to several National Guard and reserve units.   They have been provided to many friendly governments and law enforcement agencies in addition to limited commercial sales since the early 1990s.  Now eclipsed by the cheaper and better performing PVS-7 and PVS-14 night vision devices, many PVS-5s have been hitting the surplus market, but not very consistently.   Part of this is that many organizations consider the various upgraded PVS-5s to still be current technology even though no brand new models are being produced.   Existing supplies of component parts and surplus units can easily serve the market for another decade.   This makes the PVS-5 a pretty good candidate for the survivalist and they can be found in the hands of a lot of preparedness minded people.   No small part of this is due to one sizeable batch that was re-imported to the US for the last minute Y2K market and sold at very reasonable prices.   Too bad that supply has now pretty much dried up, but a lot of people got smart and picked some up on the cheap.   

The great majority of PVS-5s currently on the market have Generation 2+ tubes in them by the pair, with some very rare versions, usually for use by pilots, upgraded to generation three tubes.   The PVS-5s were very costly to produce, and when first available on the commercial market, they were usually commanding prices in excess of $5500 per copy.   Government prices were probably never below $4000 per copy and most military unit commanders who had them to issue treated them like they were worth their weight in gold; heck, they practically cost that much on the original contracts.   Only the availability of used surplus units has forced the prices down, but on the side of new production, the manufacturers opted to cease making new ones and concentrate on cheaper and more efficient third generation equipment.   

The thing is US and British development of 2nd generation night vision technology was possibly not exploited to its full potential, and we do see it still being produced in France and Russia with a lot of Israeli technical input.   They have managed to make it cheaper, but not really better and nobody ever came out with a second generation device that could outclass the PVS-5s.   Even a lot of the stuff they tout as "Like third generation" is not quite a match to the later upgrade Gen2+ tubes that are in most PVS-5s still in circulation.   A lot of the better "Russian" Gen 2 riflescopes on the US market are actually made with brand new Russian housings that have surplus PVS-5 tubes installed inside.  Don't forget  that the PVS-5 has two of these tubes, and what some smart folks figured out is that they could scavenge the tubes out of a surplus PVS-5 and put them in new housings for two night vision devices and have a lot more profitable game than simply selling rebuilt PVS-5s.   You can usually tell that is the case when you look through the hybrid scopes because they will have a good image but narrow field of view.  

It is no great secret that a large number of these goggles have "walked away" from US military units and some law enforcement agencies over the years.   To confuse matters more, no public records are readily available to determine which units are stolen and which ones are not even though they are all serial numbered and were tracked at one time.  Some have been proviced to law enforcement agencies on something of a lend lease program where the law enforcement agencies ended up either giving them to individual officers who sold or trade them on the commercial market, or the agencies themselves eventually released them through their own surplus channels.   Newer night vision devices provided through these lend lease programs come with a contract requirement that they be turned back in to the military if the agency no longer needs them.    What remains the safest bet for private ownership with no room for reinterpretation or confusion in the issue are the PVS-5s which have been released to the surplus market by the Israel Defense Forces.   They are plainly marked in Hebrew and have subtle variations from the USGI units currently used because they ended up on different evolutionary paths through their various upgrades.   It remains a fact, however, that nearly all of the parts are interchangeable, and you can find devices from time to time that have both Israeli and US marked parts in them.  

The Israelis upgraded their PVS-5 goggles to use a simpler head strap assembly than the US units.  This upgrade assembly has less adjustment than the originals and must be used with the angled face pad the Israelis came up with to go with it.   The strap makes it simple and easy to put the goggles on and take them off as long as you are not wearing a helmet.  If you are wearing a hat or helmet. you put the straps on UNDER the hat or helmet, not over it.  This can be awkward for some people, but they had specialized pilot and drivers helmets for use with the actual eyepiece unit.  

The Israelis have used the PVS-5s for almost as long as the US military, but their various upgrades ended up taking a different evolutionary path.   Unsatisfied with the way the goggles would frequently sag down on the face, they redesigned the face pads and head harness to be simpler, but a little bit bulkier.   One point of contention on these has been the batteries.   The PVS-4 night vision scope and PVS-5 goggles used a rather unique and very oddball 3.5 volt battery that is not readily available on any commercial market.   This was intended to make use of this equipment dependant on the US military supply system.  This was later determined to be problematic, and later models were upgraded to accept two 1.5 volt AA batteries.  Note, that this gives less net voltage than the original battery, but the system is pretty tolerant of the voltage loss since it was designed to use the original battery throughout the life of the battery without recharging it.   You will, however, run into problems if you use the 1.2 volt rechargeable AA batteries found on the commercial market.   The US military upgrades add weight to the goggles, but would give the versatility of the user being able to chose which batteries would go into the unit since the original battery compartment is not removed for the modification.   Many commercial vendors of these units stock parts for the upgrade, but the Israeli upgrade has proven to be simpler and much cheaper without taking away any capabilities and adding weight.   The Israeli upgrade is simply a second battery cap that you replace the regular battery cap with so that the goggles will use fairly common CR123A batteries - the same batteries now used in a lot of commercial night vision equipment, tactical lights and the Corsak lasers.     

Rather than installing an AA battery adapter like on the US -C models, the Israelis opted for a smarter and simpler approach of a separate battery compartment cap that is shaped to hold the CR123 Camera battery.  This battery is fast becoming the battery for use with tactical electronic equipment including most Russian made night vision gear, Sure-Fire combat lights and all of the clones, and the Corsak visible and IR lasers.   There are even accessory grips for AR15/M16 type rifles that have storage compartments that fit these batteries.   The military batteries are excellent, but can be hard to find.  Note that whether you are using the CR123 Battery or the military battery, the positive terminal is toward the spring in the goggles, and the negative side faces the cap.  This can be tricky since some brainiac in the military design team put the "tit" on the negative side of the military batteries where most conventional batteries like the CR123A and all flashlight batteries have the tit on the positive terminal.   Nether battery is rechargeable, but they do tend to last a long time under normal use.   The most common cure to a non-functional PVS-5 is to simply switch the battery around since it was probably installed wrong.   Either way, you are talking 3 volts to power the unit.  

Other features not found on all of the PVS-5s are the IR illuminator and the IR beacon.   The IR beacon is a low power IR light that is activated by a plunger switch near the power switch.   It can be used for momentary illumination up close, but is mainly for signaling other night vision device users.   Press the button, and the beacon turns on, release the button, the beacon turns off.   Many models will also have an IR illuminator that is activated by another position on the main switch, but a lot of them don't have it.   The IR illuminator is brighter and will stay on when it is switched on.   It is mainly used for seeing around the inside of a vehicle or aircraft since the light does not carry very far on open terrain.   

Tube and image quality on these goggles is usually surprisingly good when compared to commercial grade second generation equipment.   Given that the resolution is a respectable 35LP and the lower models of the PVS-7B are only 45LP, the PVS-5s at surplus prices give a lot of good performance for the money.   Unlike the lower end equipment, a good used pair of PVS-5s is definitely professional grade real world equipment even though it is not top of the line.   

I personally think that most survivalists who want to get into the night vision game on a reasonable balance of cost and performance can do very well with these goggles.   The goggles are more versatile than something like a night vision rifle scope.   Aiming a weapon through these goggles is tricky.  Forget conventional scopes or iron sights, it will pretty much require an IR laser, visible laser, or a dot type scope.   One good thing is that since the PVS-5s are not so incredibly sensitive to light, they can be used with more common grade red dot scopes and holosights that don't have "night vision" settings.   You also don't necessarily need the highest grade IR lasers when using a PVS-5 because it lacks the resolution to see the flaws that show up when some lasers are viewed through a super sensitive newer 64LP or better night vision device.   

In conclusion, the PVS-5 is no longer the top of the line night vision equipment that it was two decades ago, but it is no slouch either.   Still better for a lot of applications than what is currently available on the commercial market, the Israeli surplus PVS-5s are a pretty good gear investment for the survivor who is looking to get some effective night vision equipment that is battle proven and has an available supply of qualified technical assistance and spare parts to back up long term ownership.   

I usually have these available on reasonably short notice for sale or barter and can work package deals with IR lasers when I have the IR lasers available.   If you have any further questions or comments,  email alexo53@hotmail.com 

PVS-5 Israeli Night vision goggles $1500

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