Prepping 101: Cheap Night Vision Riflescopes

The top one (green) is my rock solid Yukon Gen I nightvision riflescope, currently $389 on Amazon. The bottom one is the Digital Crosshairs contraption.Guns America – by PAUL HELINSKI

Digital Crosshairs

Yukon 1.5 x 42 NVRS Riflescope

This article is something of a shootout between my favorite (and cheap at $400) night vision scope and an interesting new digital night vision product that was made from a converted IR CCTV camera. In my experience, digital night vision normally isn’t worth the inflated pricetag. I’ve even declined to review the couple “clip on” models that I’ve tried because they were just too expensive for what you get. This product, called Digital Crosshairs, is also a clip on that uses your existing scope. But at only $400-$575, it is at least arguably worth the price. As you will see, from a Prepping 101 perspective it isn’t much of a shootout. My $400 Gen I riflescope blows away this new gimmicky nightvision with the LCD screen.

Here is the Digital Crosshairs at night, mounted on an AK-47. Night vision, I have to note, should be a priority in the scope of your prepping paradigm. We have covered a few perimeter security options in this column, but what happens when your perimeter is breached at night? Two legged predators will have night vision if they are attacking at night, and if you are left in the dark, that’s pretty much it. But don’t be fooled by the armchair commandos who will tell you that you need Gen III or higher night vision at thousands of dollars. Gen I is just fine, and I have purchased and used riflescopes and binoculars under this Yukon name I have linked for you in Amazon.

This Digital Crosshairs product I can’t tell you to go and buy in good conscience. Prepping dollars are tight for most of us, and though I wish this product was a great buy, it just isn’t. Digital Crosshairs is a good idea, and I wish them well with making the product more robust, but for now it is too rough around the edges, especially as compared to to the $400 Yukon scope which I would trust my life to, and I’ll explain why.

There are a number of different ways to configure the screen position. I found that on top was the only thing practical with this scope.Digital Crosshairs works a little bit different than the other clip on night vision attachments. The ones I have used fit on the front bell of the scope and you look through your standard eyepiece and reticle, at an digitally enhanced picture that is sensitive to the infrared spectrum of light normally invisible to the human eye. Though those products less than impress me at over a grand, they do work, and I may put out some video I shot of my experiences with one soon just to show you. The Digital Crosshairs also works, but in reverse. They have made a digital lens cap out of a CCTV camera that is sensitive to IR. It looks down the scope as you normally do with your eye, then it projects that image on a little screen that sits next to the scope. Illumination is provided by an included IR flashlight, and a decent one that that.

The camera assembly attaches to the back of your scope, so instead of looking through it, you look at the screen. It sounds great, but it isn’t as good as you would hope. They clearly robbed the CCTV lens system off of a standard driveway camera, and if you look at those cameras, the lenses on them are surrounded by IR LEDs. Without illumination, even under a cloudless starlit sky, the screen on Digital Crosshairs is black. This is fine if you are going to use it for hunting pigs and coyotes at night (well kinda as I’ll explain), but in a self defense situation, your enemy is also going to have night vision. When you use an illuminator, it is light pointing a flashlight at your enemy that says “HERE I AM.”

The other major downside is that the entire system is subject to moisture. In fact, the wiring for the system isn’t even covered. It is loose, and carried with the battery pack in a nylon sack along the side of the gun. I had a hard time finding a place for the sack while retaining access to my scope knobs, and the whole thing is just a disorganized mess.

During the day you also look at the screen, which means you can shoot around cover without having to put your head behind the gun. The screen itself is mounted with a proprietary scope-type mount connected to the flashlight holder bracket. That bracket mounts to your scope tube, and it fits only a 1″ tube. I tried several positions for the system, on an AK-47 and then a Juggernaut Rogue bullpup M1A, which worked ok with the screen in the furthest forward position I could get. If you have a front sight on the gun, like the front triangle on an AR or the front sight of an AK, the glare from the IR flashlight makes the system unusable, so I would only use it on a flattop rifle of some sort, preferably with the screen mounted as far forward as possible.

Other than that, Digital Crosshairs works as promised. If the screen is screwed down tight it doesn’t move much under recoil, and there is a side benefit that you can shoot somewhat around corners. I had a hard time getting the camera to hold the reticle in focus when the scope was under magnification, but at 1x on this Nikon 223 scope it worked fine. There are videos on Youtube of the scope working under magnification at 100 yards, but I didn’t find that the focus on the flashlight worked like it should so 30 yards was the useful range. For me the final dealkiller on Digital Crosshairs is that the bright screen completely robs your natural nightvision. With any other type of NV device you are looking in with one eye. Close that eye that has been contracted by the light in the scope and your other eye has normal nightvision. Both eyes contract with Digital Crosshairs, so the night is much darker than it otherwise would be had you not looked at anything bright.

This is the Yukon scope, mounted on a 7.62x39 AR upper.


There was no way I could do this article and include Digital Crosshairs without explaining why I think that the Yukon scope you see here in the pictures is the best night vision at its pricepoint. And I don’t think you need to spend more than $400! I have owned two of these scopes, and this newer one has small improvements over the original. My old one (which was stolen) used CR123A batteries, which are a pain, but this one uses AA size. The old one had small dots around the edges of the field of view. This one is clear. Other than that, the product has been rock solid and unchanged for over 5 years. They are made in Belarus, and they don’t even say Yukon on them. It looks like there is finally a new black version that will be sold under name “Firefield,” (which also won’t be printed on the scope), and the only major change seems to be that they went to a rail lock instead of thumb screws, and the magnification seems to have increased to 3x (I did just order one for a followup review). You have to love the simplicity of the Russians when it comes to optics. They are big, crude, heavy, but they really work.

The biggest difference between the Yukon and other NV riflescopes at this price range is that the Yukon has one set of batteries for both the scope and the IR illuminator.What I like about the Yukon over the ATN and similar products at this pricepoint is that on the Yukon scope there is only one battery compartment to worry about, and only one on/off switch. The others, (like the Digital Crosshairs), include a separate flashlight alongside the main body of the scope, and it requires its own set of batteries and has to be turned off separately. I used to own the ATN at this pricepoint, but it also was stolen with my original Yukon. Before that I had on several occasions forgotten to turn off the IR and it was dead when I went back to use it again.

The other thing is that the Yukon gives you a nice field of view, 20 degrees, out to at least 200 yards under clear skies. The illuminator is integral and shoots down the exact line of sight that the scope does, but you really don’t need it unless the night is totally black, or you are indoors in total darkness.

There is also only one on/off switch, and as you can see, the controls for IR are just one more flip down from on. The reticle brightness is right next to it, and the scope is zeroed with dials like normal. What are the downsides to a dedicated night vision scope compared to something like Digital Crosshairs or one of the other digital night vision devices? One is that in full light, the Yukon crosshairs are very hard to see. It relies on a pinhole lensecover to reduce the amount of light coming into the device, and in full sunlight the red crosshairs are very faint. The other big downside is that if your batteries are dead, you have no sighting device at all. The scope is off and you can’t see through it. With a removable device you at least always have your scope. This Yukon is probably the smallest dedicated night vision scope I have seen, but even it leaves very little room on the rail for backup sights. Right now I have it on a 7.62×39 upper, but I may move it to one of my other ARs that has a full top rail with plenty of room for offset backups and maybe a laser backup as well.


It was hard to get a good picture through the Yukon, but here is what the reticle looks like. During full bright sunlight it is hard to make out, but it holds zero perfectly. If you are one of the thousands of people who have followed this Prepping 101 column, most likely you already understand that it won’t be enough to have guns when the collapse finally comes. You really have to spend some time, money, and storage space on food, water, medicine, cooking stuff, etc., if you want to have a shot at survival. But don’t discount your security requirements just because you have a gun. Granted, $400 is a lot of money, but this is one investment I would make now if you can, rather than wait to see if things get worse. Money is going to get scarcer now as the beginning of the collapse unfolds, but when it finally gets to the point of no return, things like this Yukon won’t get cheaper (like gasoline and bank loans). They will cease to be available. I don’t suggest you buy a Digital Crosshairs, but get one of these Yukon scopes while you still can.

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