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PVS-7 Night Vision Goggles
PVS-7 night vision goggles came on the military scene in the late 1980s as cutting edge military technology that was restricted to well funded elite military units and pilots. First seen with regular line units in the Gulf War of 1991, they met with mixed reviews on the part of the troops who used them. The housings were upgraded and designated the PVS-7B, along with a host of modular accessories that make the unit adaptable for wearing with helmets, as a magnified binocular, and with a modular design that allows for easy repair and upgrade of the intensifier tube.
All of the PVS-7B units produced for the US military used third generation night vision technology. The higher cost for the third generation image intensifier tubes made a continuation of the excellent PVS-5 dual tube designs cost prohibitive. As it was, a PVS-7, using only a single intensifier tube with the image split by prisms would cost less and give a superior image than the Army's aging stock of PVS-5 night vision goggles. The other branches of the US military service quickly followed suit, although the Marine have demonstrated less faith in the equipment and have traditionally restricted distribution of PVS-7s to elite units and leaders. In comparison, many, if not most US Army combat units issue these high cost night vision goggles to most troops instead of flashlights. The US department of Defense stopped buying PVS-7B night vision goggles in 2004 to allow for primary contractor production resources to concentrate almost entirely on the production of the newer PVS-14 monocular.
Both the PVS-7B/D series and the PVS-14 can often be found in use with several US military units at the same time since the use many of the same accessories and share components of the modular system. Likewise, they are available on the commercial market, usually from suppliers who sell ITT product lines. Newer military devices will have "US Government Property" marked into the housings, along with a DOD property sticker attached to the front panel of the housing. Differences in tubes are entirely another story.
Prior to 2003, the US government accepted tubes in only two grades after a stringent inspection process. PVS-7B tubes were the standard grade tubes manufactured and inspected according to specifications put out by DOD. Early tubes that failed these stringent inspections were destroyed. This practice changed in the late 1990s when tubes that failed the stringent inspections were released for public sale and ended up being used in a number of proprietary night vision devices sold by a number of companies in the US and abroad. Another grade of tube, meeting the "best of the best" specifications at the time of manufacture were designated "D" or "delta" tubes and installed in the same identical housings as the PVS-7B, but were designated as 'PVS-7D". The PVS-7Ds were distributed primarily to Special Forces units and some pilots. Commercial vendors quickly discovered a market for these premium devices and made them available to the public.
Now in 2005, there are no more tubes being produce in the US for the PVS-7B series night vision devices but components are still being produced overseas and there is an active market in used goggles. This has created a very diverse market where bargains and ripoffs are mixed in with fair deals that make the PVS-7B/D series goggles a valid option for the survivor who wants good usable night vision equipment.
The current market for PVS-7Bs is all over the map because of the different tubes that are used in the devices, the age of the devices and the supply and demand for the devices at any given time. Market demand for PVS-7Bs stays strong because of the ready availability of most parts and accessories that trickle out from military surplus and are still in production from OEM suppliers in Singapore. While ITT is the primary "manufacturer" in the US, it has been well known in the industry that they had subcontracted most component manufacturing for the devices to outfits located in Singapore.
Using the PVS-7 is a little bit more complex than using regular binoculars, but the general concept is the same. First, you need to make certain the device is properly adjusted for you. The two rear eyepieces are adjustable both for the distance between them and for a rear focus. You turn the large ring that is up against the goggle housing to adjust the rear focus, and then once it is a little bit loose (turn them to the right if they will not move), you can push them together or pull them apart to adjust the distance between them. This allows for the goggles to fit most people, but not all people. The front focus is primarily for setting the distance and you will find yourself adjusting that frequently as you use the goggles. For initial settings, adjust it about halfway through its range of movement, or if that proves too difficult, move it all the way in, and then adjust it out around a half turn.
I found the best way to set the focus is to adjust it so that you can view low clouds at night, then the front focus will be adjustable to get closer or farther distances. You will most frequently be using the goggles for closer distances, but realize that the old trick of adjusting one eye to see far and one eye to see close does not work so well with these (although it can work for some people).
Once you have the device itself adjusted to fit your face and your eyes, you want to put the headset or helmet on and adjust that to fit. The headset is complex and probably in need of some design improvement, but it does work. Make sure the headset is on so that the mounting bracket is as level as possible and will not shift around when you shake your head. You will see that the mounting bracket on the headset has a few pieces, one of which slides forward and backward when you press a small plunger. Move that piece all the way forward and snap the PVS-7 into place. There is a lever on top of the PVS-7 that you can press down to detach it from the headset. Note that if you have the PVS-7 turned on when you detach it from the headset, it will automatically turn off and you will have to cycle the on-off switch to get it to turn back on. Once you have the PVS-7 installed on the headset, give it a forward pull just make sure it is locked in place. Then press the plunger on the adjustment carriage and move it to the rear so that the viewable image is as large as possible but the device is not painfully pressed up against your face. Make final adjustments to the front lens.
The power switch controls both the main tube and the small IR illuminator. Rotate it once to turn the device on, or pull it out about 1/8" and rotate it a notch further to turn the IR illuminator on. Remember that if the device is removed from a headmount or helmet mount, it will automatically turn off, but the power switch will not move. You need to turn the device off again to reset it.
More to come later